Hotels
Visits to some of the wonderful area hotels, their amenities, and foodie offerings!

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Each year Omni Hotels’ culinary team travels the globe in search of unique and bold flavors. This year, their quest led them to Chile, where on the Western edge of South America, they discovered rustic flavors,

warm and welcoming people, a compelling landscape and some of the best wines in the world.

Chile’s geographic barriers – the Atacama Desert to the north, the Andes Mountains to the east, the Patagonian ice fields to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west – protect its grape-growing valleys from harsh weather, making it literally, a winemaking paradise.

This year, Omni partnered with Wines of Chile to create a culinary treat presenting a dedicated Chilean dinner and bar menu paired with hand-selected wines that reflect Omni’s utter enchantment with the region. This installment of Omni’s annual “Flavors of the World” culinary series. will be available at properties across the U.S. from October 1 through December 31, 2015.

We were recently invited to check out the upcoming menu as part of a media preview. For more information, visit: http://www.omnihotels.com/culinary/chile and for the full menu, here.

DSC01992MILCAOS CON PEBRE DE PALTA (9) – fried potato cakes topped with avocado, banana pepper, tomato and Chilean sea salt. Great combination of crispy and smoothness.

DSC01974CHACARERITO – Traditional sandwich with beef steak, raw green beans, tomato and banana peppers. The vegetables gave the sandwich multiple layer textures and interest.

DSC01998SOPA DE CHOCLO CON PINO DE CHAMPIÑONES  (8) – Delicious corn soup with mushroom, acorn squash, hard-cooked egg and basil puree. The hard-boiled egg actually worked really well as a solid component in the soup. 

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EMPANADA CON PEBRE (9)
“Pino” chopped beef, onions, hard cooked eggs, raisins and green olive
”Camarón Queso” prawns, cheese and spring onion
“Pequen” traditional country empanada with caramelized onionThe caramelized onion empanada was super savory that you won’t even notice there’s no meat in it. 

DSC02003CHORITOS CON PEBRE (12) – steamed mussels with tomato, onion, bell pepper and cilantro. 

DSC02026BACALAO CON TOMATICÁN (35) – light and flaky seared sea bass with braised tomato, yellow corn and cilantro salad. 

DSC02016COSTILLA CON PURÉ PICANTE (23) – pork ribs slowly cooked in beer and palm honey with potato puré and Chilean smoked chili pepper. There’s a sweetness from the great molasses barbecue sauce as a well a smoked pepper after taste. 

DSC02025QUINNOTO DE CHAMPIÑONES CON PEBRE DE PALTA (19) – golden Chilean quinoa slowly cooked with roasted mushroom and avocado. A ‘healthier’ opt from the regular risotto. 

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ARROZ CON LECHE Y SALSA DE MANJAR (7) – short grain rice cooked with milk, cinnamon, orange and dulce de leche. I’m not a huge pudding person, but this I can do. 

DSC02046TRES LECHES CAKE (7) – sponge cake soaked with three milks and served with fresh strawberries. Probably one of the best Tres Leches I’ve had, and I believe it’s the difference in the top layer of whipped cream. Extremely light and fluffy and not overwhelming to pair with the decadent layers that are on the bottom.

DSC01967PISCO SOUR (10) – Capel Premium Pisco, lemon juice, sugar and crushed ice mixed together to create this Chilean classic cocktail. 

Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate
(407) 390-6664
1500 Masters Blvd, Champions Gate, FL, 33896

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Chef Mark Jeffers, Chef de Cuisine of the newly opened Highball & Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton, was born in Port Orange Florida, but spent a lot of time in North Carolina while he was growing up. You can see much of the influence from his upbringing in his cooking today.

Recently, we had the chance to interview Chef Jeffers for our new series, the Orlando Chef’s Spotlight Series, about his past adventures to the future at Highball & Harvest.

“I started cooking at a young age, and always had a knack for “concoctions” as I used to call them.” Chef Jeffers told us recently through an e-mail correspondence.

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He later moved to Tallahassee for college and bar tended in a martini bar while going to school. He grew to love the process of combining different and unusual (at the time) flavors in drinks.

“Creating balance of flavor/acidity/depth in a cocktail is essentially the same thing.”

He eventually took a leap and moved to Orlando to go to Le Cordon Bleu, and used that as a jumping platform to land a job at the Ritz-Carlton at Orlando Grande Lakes Resort, spending the next 6 years working his way around the hotel at various capacities from Supervisor, Sous Chef, Banquet Chef, Chef Tounant, and now Chef de Cuisine at Highball and Harvest.

What are some of your favorite dishes on the new menu?
I love the Grouper dish. It is so simple, yet the flavor combination is really delicious. The rich and spicy Hominy ragout with Andouille sausage, Perfectly blackened grouper, finished with lemon juice and parsley, and the Pickled Okra to help create a balance for the creamy sauce is fantastic.

What are you planning for the coming fall and winter season?
I also love the my new baby back rib dish I put on the menu. Smoked Ribs, that I finish in the oven for a pull-apart tender texture. I made an apple sorghum BBQ sauce that creates a beautiful candied lacquer. I paired them with my southern interpretation of a good German spaetzel (“Baby Dumplings”) and braised red cabbage (red wine cabbage)

H&H Baby Back Ribs
H&H Baby Back Ribs

Another favorite new dish that just made the menu is my Southern Style Surf-n-Turf. Citrus Brined Cobia, Braised Pork Belly, Squash Puree, Brussel Sprout Slaw. A beautifully balanced dish fit for the fall.

H&H Surf & Turf
H&H Surf & Turf

The last 2 dishes that I mentioned are new additions to my fall menu, but a few other things I’m working on include….a Braised Lamb Shank, Creamy Grits, and Carolina Mushrooms. Another nice dish is my crispy skinned trout with spaghetti squash and sunchoke puree with sorghum popcorn.

H&H Back Porch Ceviche
H&H Back Porch Ceviche

I also added my interpretation of a ceviche- Back-Porch Ceviche: Royal Red Canaveral Shrimp, Pickled Tomatoes and Sweet Potato Chips from Whisper Creek Farm (on property)

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Where do you dine when not at Highball and Harvest?
My favorite restaurants in Orlando to go to when I’m not at H&H are Prato, Hawkers, and The Ravenous Pig, but I have a soft spot in my heart/stomach for authentic Mexican.

There is a tiny hole in the wall taco place near work off OBT called El Tenampa – $1.50 tacos with tripe, beef tongue (lengua), belly, and all the typical other meat choices. Super simple with 2 soft corn tortillas cilantro and minced onions. Another perk is that they always have 2 for 1 margaritas. ( I recommend knowing a little Spanish if you go….This place is REALLY authentic if you know what I mean)

What are some interesting facts about yourself that most people might not know?

  • I’ve been chased by a bear in Canada (maybe provoked)
  • I HATE sharks (but used to surf at the shark bite capital of the world…New Smyrna Beach)
  • Somewhere out there, there is a video of me breakdancing…Hope that never surfaces (long time ago)
  • I secretly want to have Bear Gryll’s life.
  • My dream job involves a cooking show

Growing up, what were some of your favorite childhood eats?
My mom used to make all different kinds of casseroles that she found in magazines and cookbooks. Some were better than others, but the highlights were a chicken pot pie casserole and a tuna noodle casserole. My dad used to love making fried chicken on the weekend, (while my mom made herself a grilled chicken). Really Good.

My go-to sandwich I would make for myself was a pan fried bologna sandwich with American cheese on toasted white bread with pickle relish and mustard.

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Highball & Harvest
The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Parkway Orlando, FL

(407) 393-4422
www.highballandharvest.com
HOURS
Daily – 6:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Bar – Daily – 11 a.m. – Midnight

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Food and Wine Weekends at Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek: A Celebration of Fine Wine & Culinary Arts

– Weekends through November 9, 2014

With the Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival going on right now at Disney World, local area hotels have started to prepare their own special food-themed events around this 53 day event,the perfect complement for visiting as well as local food lovers.

Many are familiar with the Swan and Dolphin’s Food and Wine Classic Weekends, but not so many are as familiar with the new Food and Wine Weekends at Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

Last year, we had the opportunity to preview the entire list of Waldorf and Hilton Food and Wine Weekend events and were blown away by the high quality food that we encountered on our adventure from the sushi at Zeta Bar’s Art of Sushi to inarguably one of the best restaurants in Orlando, Bull and Bear restaurant.

Food & Wine Weekends events are being held from September 19 through November 9, 2014.

Weekend Highlights

Global Venture – a Wine Pairing Dinner

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Friday and Saturday, 7:30pm, Bull & Bear Restaurant

Experience an exclusive 3-course tasting menu comprised of exquisite food and wine pairings from around the world – prepared by the illustrious chefs of Waldorf Astoria Orlando. $110 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

Reservations are required by calling 407-597-5413 or clicking here.

Preview menu for September 19-20
Preview menu for September 26-27
Preview menu for October 3-4
Preview menu for October 10-11
Preview menu for October 17-18
Menus for October 24-25, October 31, November 1, and November 7-8 will post as they become available.

Cibo Della Vita

Friday & Saturday, 5pm – 11pm, La Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

From the kitchen of La Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, each weekend a tasting menu and wine pairing will be featured. This series of culinary experiences is certain to be the talk of the town! Pricing Varies. Reservations recommended. Call 407-597-3600.
Preview menu for September 19 & 20, 26 & 27; October 17 & 18, 24 & 25
Preview menu for October 3 & 4, 10 & 11, 31; November 1, 7 & 8

Bar du Chocolat and Champagne Tasting

Friday and Saturday, 6:30pm – 10:30pm, Peacock Alley

Decadent, yes. Sinful, perhaps. Most certainly an experience for those with a sweet tooth. Peacock Alley will be transformed into a chocolate-lover’s dream, offering a cocoa-infused evening of self-indulgence paired with a selection of fine champagnes. Guests can choose from a signature selection of chocolate treats from the Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s world-class pastry team. Pricing varies.

The Art of Sushi Pairing

Friday and Saturday, Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek

An exciting epicurean journey awaits as guests explore perfect pairings for our favorite sushi dishes including beer, sake and wine. Pricing varies.

Live Entertainment

Nightly at Peacock Alley

The Waldorf “Egg” -  20 - An entire frozen "egg" filled with Lavender Syrup, Blue Curacao,  Fresh Lemonade, ~Bombay Sapphire~
The Waldorf “Egg” – 20
– An entire frozen “egg” filled with Lavender Syrup, Blue Curacao, Fresh Lemonade, ~Bombay Sapphire~

Peacock Alley is centrally located in the heart of the main lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, overlooking the magnificent hand-crafted clock. With a nod to the stunning landmark restaurant of the same name in New York, Peacock Alley offers an irresistible menu of small-plate inspired cuisine for lunch and dinner, creative libations including our signature Peacock Egg, an exquisite wine selection and live entertainment nightly.

The Peacock “Egg” is one of the most creative cocktails we’ve ever seen in Orlando, a frozen shell made from a water balloon filled with water, burst, and drilled to fill with lemonade, blue curacao, bombay sapphire gin with lavender syrup served over a martini glass and neon blue LED lights and a base of blue sugar powder. Definitely a great conversation piece for our peacock friends.

Royal Tea – A New Waldorf Astoria Tradition

Sundays, 3pm – 5pm, Peacock Alley

Treasure time together as you savor finely-prepared tea sandwiches and house-made pastries, while sipping premium hot tea and listening to live piano music. Add a glass of champagne for a “Grand Royal Tea.” From $30 per adult; $15 per child, plus tax and gratuity.

Astoria After Dark

Friday and Saturday, 6pm – 10pm, WA Kids Club

Adults are not the only ones to have fun. The WA Kids Club is offering a nightly children’s program including dinner and a non-stop roster of fun activities – providing parents some “adult time” in which to experience Food & Wine Weekend activities.

All guests are invited to enjoy Food & Wine Weekend experiences.

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We were recently invited to a media preview for the Bull and Bear’s Global Venture menu for the Food and Wine Weekends and continued to be impressed by the skill of the chefs and culinary team and the flavor profiles that they were able to bring out in their dishes.

 

SONY DSCAmuse-bouche:  Mushroom Sausage, Fennel Confit on a Parmesan Cheese Cracker

First Course:

Wisconsin Pride Cheese Souffle

SONY DSCWisconsin Pride  – A savory 4-year & 2-year Wisconsin cheddar cheese soufflé topped with crunchy roasted fava beans and pumpernickel croutons, paired with Domaine Ferret Pouilly-Fuissé, France 2012, an Old world Chardonnay with light oak that compliments the mild flavor of the cheddar.

Second Course:  Pasta Explosion

SONY DSCThe Pasta Explosion is one of my favorite dishes of all time – one of Bull and Bear’s signature dishes, it’s served with a special spoon to be eaten in one bite so that the full flavor explosion can be experienced. The pasta is a very delicate, homemade pasta filled with blended bellota pata negra ham; topped with beurre monté and aged reggiano parmesan cheese to pull the favors together. The dish is paired with Domaine de Triennes Rosé, France 2013, with aromas of strawberry and an olive finish; acidic enough to cut through the richness of the pata negra ham and reggiano parmesan in the pasta explosion.

Main Course:

Bull & Bear Fried Chicken

SONY DSCBull & Bear Fried Chicken takes over 12 hours to make. First, chicken breast is removed from 3-1/2 pound chicken with wing bone attached and skin intact, marinated in an alkaline brine for 12 hours and cooked sous-vide for 1-1/2 hours. The chicken is dredged in a buttermilk batter and topped with corn flake and corn meal then fried for 6 minutes; served with mashed potatoes and gravy made from foie gras, duck fat and demi-glace. The fried chicken is paired with L’Ecole Nº 41 Syrah, Walla Walla, Washington 2010, made with 80% Syrah 20% Grenache the light tannins lingering flavor of olive and cocoa contrast with the flavors of the fried chicken.

Tomahawk Ribeye

SONY DSCTomahawk Ribeye is a 38 oz. bone-in rib-eye from 32-day dry aged Allen Brothers beef with an entire rib bone attached and carved tableside alongside a lighted candle made from beef tallow, paired with Hugh Hamilton, Jekyll & Hyde Shiraz 2009, Australia

Sides:

Bull & Bear Frittes

SONY DSCBull & Bear Frittes are crispy, delicious hand-cut Idaho potatoes soaked in malt vinegar and water then cooked in beef tallow; tossed in homemade garlic powder and served with garlic aioli and all natural ketchup. The frittes are so good they hardly need any aioli or ketchup for dipping.

SONY DSCWilted Spinach, lightly sautéed in extra virgin olive oil, garlic, fleur de sel sea salt, and fresh lemon juice and Aged Gruyere Cheese Potato Gratin made with roasted fingerling potatoes with aged Gruyere cheese and topped with a toasted brioche with aged Gruyere and 4-year aged Wisconsin cheddar.

Desserts:

The Lemon

  • Signature dessert; whole lemon cleaned out; rind cooked for 4 hours in a simple syrup reduction; filled with homemade lemon sorbet, lemon curd, and Chantilly cream; cut into perfect bites and topped with shortbread cookie tableside.

SONY DSCCrème Brûlée Flambée – Vanilla bean crème brûlée flambée with a hidden layer of dark chocolate crème on the bottom.

SONY DSCThe Cigar – Organic Mexican chocolate ganache center; chocolate wafer outside; ash made from merengue and colored with squid ink.

SONY DSCThe Napoleon – Puff pastry  with black walnut pastry cream; black walnuts soaked in 12-year-old aged Zaya Rum from Trinidad; dried merengue and dried raspberries.

Desserts paired with Weingut Angerhof-Tschida Samling Trockenbeerenauslese, 2002, Austria – this unique dessert wine from Austria is best described as a dessert in a glass, the thickness and mouth coating sweetness of this wine will definitely leave you  feeling satisfied.

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Waldorf Astoria Orlando

14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando, FL 32821
Telephone: 407.597.5500
Reservations: 888.353.2009
http://www.waldorfastoriaorlando.com/food-wine

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Situated on the top two floors of the Hyatt Regency hotel at Orlando International Airport, Hemisphere has some of the most breathtaking dining views in all of Orlando. Down below, diners can watch as the major airlines taxi along the airport’s runways, preparing for their initial ascent into the airspace and onto their next destination.

Hemisphere specializes in steaks and seafood and even has an award winning wine list. At first approach, I immediately thought the space could use some re-modeling – much like the one its sister restaurant, McCoy’s, recently underwent in order to modernize and update. For now, the space and decor, though bright and airy, is still very reminiscent of a 1990s era hotel restaurant.

Hyatt hotels all around the world recently launched a new global food philosophy – “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.” focused on sourcing and providing healthy food and beverage options for Hyatt guests and also good for the local communities in which they reside and good for the planet.

On a recent media preview visit to Hemisphere, under the care of Sous Chef Tournant Jonathan Zimmerly, we started off our dinner with the house specialty, a peppery, savory crawfish cream chowder which first made its appearance on the Hemisphere menu when it first opened. My dining partner and I also sampled the blue crab cake served in a corn chowder as well as an heirloom tomato, basil, mozzarella salad – both were good.

The star of the evening was the whole yellow tail snapper flash fried with a chili lime soy broth and cilantro jasmine rice. When they mean whole yellow tail snapper, they really mean the entire fish from head to tail fried. Although the jasmine rice was oddly salty, the fish was fun to eat especially over rice. It reminded me of an old family meal dish we would have growing up, picking off the fish with our chopsticks around the family dinner table.

My dish was seared scallops on top of a caramelized onion tart and served with roasted wild mushrooms and garlic cream. I enjoyed the scallops but wish the caramelized onion tart had been more flaky and crispy rather than soggy.

Overall, I would definitely try Hemisphere again, especially after their re-modeling is completed.

An old fashioned Italian waiter statue greets guests in the front of Hemisphere
An old fashioned Italian waiter statue greets guests in the front of Hemisphere
Gorgeous window views of the runways below at the Orlando International Airport
Gorgeous window views of the runways below at the Orlando International Airport
The decor is reminiscent of 1990s Hotel-chic
The decor is reminiscent of 1990s Hotel-chic
House baked bread at Hemisphere
House baked bread at Hemisphere
Blue Crab, sautéed crab cake, sweet corn chowder - $13
Blue Crab, sautéed crab cake, sweet corn chowder – $13
Heirloom Tomato, Local Organic Basil, Mozzarella, Organic EVOO, Balsamic, Key West Sea Salt - $9
Heirloom Tomato, Local Organic Basil, Mozzarella, Organic EVOO, Balsamic, Key West Sea Salt – $9
Hemisphere's Crawfish Chowder, House specialty  - $8
Hemisphere’s Crawfish Chowder, House specialty – $8
Amuse bouche - raspberry gelato
Amuse bouche – raspberry gelato
Whole Yellow Tail Snapper, flash fried, chili lime soy broth, Cilantro Jasmine rice - $34
Whole Yellow Tail Snapper, flash fried, chili lime soy broth, Cilantro Jasmine rice – $34
Scallops, fresh from New England, seared, caramelized onion tart, roasted wild mushrooms, garlic cream - $32
Scallops, fresh from New England, seared, caramelized onion tart, roasted wild mushrooms, garlic cream – $32

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Corn and Rice sides
Corn and Rice sides

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Hemisphere Steak & Seafood at Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport
9300 Jeff Fuqua Blvd, Orlando, Florida, USA, 32827
Tel: +1 407 825 1234 Fax: +1 407 856 1672 orlan-reservations@hyatt.com

Hemisphere Steak & Seafood on Urbanspoon

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An exclusive preview of a luxurious lakeside resort within the gates of Walt Disney World Resort surrounded by beautiful gardens and emerald golf greens.

Located on Disney property, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando encompasses 26 acres with an 18-hole golf course, 5-acre Explorer Island water park/recreation area, and five restaurants with innovative dining options. Four Seasons Resort Orlando officially opens to the public on August 3.

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Now this..is what you call a grand entrance.

PRESS RE LEASE 

Chef Fabrizio Schenardi has joined the opening team of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort as Executive Chef. Schenardi will oversee the culinary operations for the Resort’s five on-property restaurants, plus in-room dining and catering culinary operations.

Schenardi has worked for the Pelagia Trattoria at Tampa Hotel International Plaza; the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort and Spa in Dana Point, California; Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel, in Los Angeles, California; and numerous other fine properties around the world.

Schenardi is from Rivoli, Italy, and speaks English, Italian, French and Spanish. His expertise is in Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. He received his Culinary Arts Diploma from the Istituto Alberghiero Ravizza in Torino, Italy.

Dining Concepts

Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort will offer a variety of dining concepts, available to both Resort guests and local Orlando area residents. From a swanky rooftop steakhouse concept to a lakeside Southern rotisserie grill and an Italian pizza and pasta family style restaurant, there is something for everyone.

Capa

A true highlight of the Resort will be Capa, the 17th-floor rooftop steakhouse and bar, featuring Spanish influenced cuisine in a romantic setting like no other. Capa’s diverse offerings range from freshly shucked oysters and Florida seafood to incredible small plates and expertly grilled cuts. An open kitchen and wood-burning grill allow diners to get close to the action, while those dining on the outdoor terrace enjoy views of the nightly fireworks. Capa, Spanish for a matador’s red cape, is decorated in black and white with bold hues of crimson accenting the space. An abstract painting conveying the movement of dust as it rises during the matador’s performance appears near the bar. Six traditional matador jackets flank the entrance to the private dining room, and a flowing red art installation travels across the ceiling, representing the flow of the matador’s cape. Capa, serving dinner only, will open in September 2014.

Ravello

Named for the Italian seaside town situated above the Amalfi coast, modern Italian cuisine is the specialty at Ravello, the all-day dining restaurant at Four Seasons. Breakfast offerings include an omelet station and traditional breakfast favourites. Dinner offers fresh pizza and bread from the wood-burning oven, regionally influenced Italian specialties, and the open kitchen’s pasta bar. Ravello will offer a “Goofy & Pals” Disney Character Breakfast on Thursdays and Saturdays, and select Tuesdays during peak school break periods.

Plancha

Whether taking a break from hitting the greens, or seeking a serene retreat, Plancha will delight with its fresh, bold flavour Cuban-American cuisine. Located at the Golf Clubhouse, Plancha – Cuban for grill – offers a picturesque lakeside setting. Signature dishes such as the Cubana sandwich, empanadas and chorizo burger offer an authentic taste of Cuba, and vibrant cocktails from the Mojito to the Hemingway Daiquiri are sure to please. Plancha will open in September 2014.

Lickety Split

For guests on the go, Lickety-Split provides delicious quick bites throughout the day. Café lattes and breakfast pastries, savoury quick bites, gelato and more will be offered at the colourful Lickety Split.

PB&G

Premium American barbecue dishes, fresh salads, frozen cocktails and mocktails, an extensive kids’ and teens’ menu with lots of healthy options: the Pool Bar & Grill offers a lively, fun and casual atmosphere. This smokehouse and rotisserie serves up pulled pork, rotisserie chicken, smoked brisket and house-made hot dogs and burgers with plenty of Southern charm. Brightly painted picnic tables, teak floorboards, and whimsical lighting elements such as lanterns and stringed lights give the space a fun vibe.

Introducing: Luxury Meets Magic

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Breathtaking lake view with good sunset photo opportunities..
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Ravello Bar
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Ravello Bar – THE place to connect, people-watch and indulge.
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Ravello Restaurant – Modern Italian cuisine
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So much attention to detail!
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Ravello Restaurant Bar
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Ravello Restaurant – live-action “show kitchen”
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Ravello Restaurant – Seared Tuna on Eggplant Caponata
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Ravello Restaurant – Executive Chef Fabrizio Schenardi’s Signature Ravioli {DELICIOUS}
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The Oasis – Adults-only pool
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PB&G {Pool Bar & Grill} – Smokehouse and rotisserie poolside restaurant
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Absolut Peach Iced Tea
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Absolut Peach Iced Tea
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Rotisserie Chicken, Brisket & Fried Oyster
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Stuffed “Deviled” Eggs with Caviar
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Lickety-Split Lounge
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Coffee
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Terra Sana – Medium Roast 100% Organic
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Chocolate Cake
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{Chocolate Cake} One of my favorite bites!
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Key Lime Pie

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Tiramisu

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Address: 10100 Dream Tree Blvd, Orlando, FL 32836
Follow/Like: @FSOrlando
Instagram: #FSOpenings, #FSsneakpeek

For 27 years, The Peabody Orlando hotel was connected to the Orange County Convention Center on International Drive. In late 2010, a $450 million renovation of the hotel added a 32-story wing that doubled the number of rooms and an expansion tower that stands as the second tallest building in Orlando (behind the SunTrust tower in Downtown Orlando).

On October, 1 2013, The Peabody Orlando was sold to Hyatt Hotels and renamed Hyatt Regency Orlando.

With the change to Hyatt Regency, the Peabody’s trademarked Capriccio Grill was transformed into Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse, with a new menu and a new chef de cuisine.

Fiorenzo, which means blossoming or flourishing in Italian, brings together the flavors an authentic Italian restaurant in Orlando and the tradition of a great American steak house. The restaurant is elegantly decorated, with dark black marble table tops and champagne gold touches accenting the dining room, and an open kitchen with a pizza oven operating to full capacity. The black and gold give it an almost Gatsby-esque feel, dapper for a hotel restaurant, a little old fashioned yet modern at the same time.

Looking inside Fiorenze Italian Kitchen
Looking inside, decor, at the Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at the Hyatt Regency Orlando

Chef Jimmy Stafford, the new Chef de Cuisine at Fiorenzo, has been a part of Hyatt Hotels Food and Beverage team for the past nine years. A graduate of Hyatt’s Culinary Training Program, Stafford has served as a chef at Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, Calif., Chef de Cuisine at Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, and Sous Chef for Andaz Wall Street in New York, N.Y.

Chef Stafford has created Fiorenzo’s brand new menu with his own creative twist, featuring signature dishes such as chocolate papardelle, 20oz prime bone-in rib eye, and bison carpaccio.

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Chef de Cuisine Jimmy Stafford carving out slices of cured Spanish Iberico ham in the Fiorenzo kitchen

The new menu is composed of prime steaks, seafood entrees, creative pizza and pasta dishes, as well as select wines from an extensive wine cellar.

Our waiter, a Mr. Gokhan, is the definition of great service, offering helpful suggestions and checking up on our dining experience throughout the evening, making sure our drinks were full without being too intrusive. He actually had quite a resume as well, having worked as a head waiter on the Royal Caribbean cruiseline.

We started our dinner with the bison carpaccio and the endive and watercress salad.

Carpaccio is the Italian dish consisting of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and seasoned with lemon, or vinegar, olive oil, salt and ground pepper. The dish was named carpaccio after Vittore Carpaccio, the Venetian painter known for the characteristic red and white tones of his work.

The Bison Carpaccio here at Fiorenzo, like many of the dishes crafted by Chef Stafford and his team, are no less a work of art – beautifully red, thinly sliced cuts of bison drizzled with tangy, sweet juniper lemon vinaigrette and topped with a dollop of house-made cucumber yogurt, crispy julienned strips of green apple, kohlrabi cabbage, and fresh horseradish. The bison itself is delightfully refreshing and reminded me a lot of tuna, not too gamey but distinctly different from beef. I also enjoyed the crunchy texture of the green apple when eaten together with the tender bison slices.

BISON CARPACCIO

BISON CARPACCIO
Green Apple, Kohlrabi, Fresh Horseradish, Cucumber Yogurt, Juniper Lemon Vinaigrette – $17

My dining partner similarly enjoyed her endive & watercress salad, a refreshingly creative and unique combination of endive, watercress, golden delicious apple slices, watermelon, feta cheese, and candied pistachios all topped with a sweet pistachio dressing. The salad was at once sweet and tart with the combination of apple and watermelon fruit, and also savory with the nutty pistachios. I would definitely call this one of the best salad dishes here in Orlando today and enjoyed it even more than the bison carpaccio.

IMG_1848 ENDIVE & WATERCRESS SALAD
Golden Delicious Apple, Watermelon, Feta Cheese, Candied Pistachios and Pistachio Dressing – $14

Fiorenzo also has a nice selection of cheese and cured meat plates. The cheeses range from Smoked Scamorza, to Gorgonzola Picante, Truffled Pecorino, and Burrata alla Panna while the cured meats include Finocchiona, Bresaola, Wild Boar Salami, and Jamon Iberico.

IMG_1881 CHEESE & CURED MEATS – Served with Condiments & Crostini
Cheese: Smoked Scamorza, Gorgonzola Picante, Truffled Pecorino, Burrata alla Panna
Cured Meats: Finocchiona, Bresaola, Wild Boar Salami, Jamon Iberico

One of the strongest points at Fiorenzo is their list of house made specialty pasta dishes unlike any others found in Orlando. Take the Vesuvio pasta dish, a fabulous dish made with vesuvio pasta served with a Butternut Squash sauce base and topped with fresh sauteed spinach, sweet pear, shaved ricotta salata cheese, and roasted pine nuts. These curvy, spirally, squiggly pasta are shaped to resemble Mount Vesuvius, the famed Italian volcanic mountain, and its sea-shell like shape helps scoop in the delicious butternut squash sauce. The dish really makes Fiorenzo an exciting stand out among all the other Italian restaurants out there.

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VESUVIO PASTA – Butternut Squash, Spinach, Fresh Pear, Ricotta Salata, Roasted Pine Nuts – $12/$22

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RISOTTO OF THE DAY – Local Corn Risotto

My dining partner thoroughly enjoyed her grilled branzino, a European seabass fish, served with roasted cauliflower, parsnip puree, and cured orange salmoriglio, while I chose the more traditional, but no less impressive, 20 ounce prime bone in ribeye steak, grilled to perfection to a requested medium rare.

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GRILLED BRANZINO 
Roasted Cauliflower, Mache, Parsnip Purée, Cured Orange Salmoriglio – $36

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20oz PRIME BONE IN RIB EYE – $57

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We did not get a chance to try the pizzas at Fiorenzo, but the selection looked great and from where we were sitting, we could see the chefs preparing the pizza orders for other patrons at the restaurant that evening, hot and fresh out of the oven.

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PIZZA SELECTIONS 
PEPPERONI – Mozzarella Cheese, Pepperoni, Parmesan Cheese – $15
MARGHERITA – San Marzano Tomatoes, Fresh Mozzarella, Basil, Sea Salt, Olive Oil – $15
FUNGI – Mixed Mushrooms, Arugula Pesto, Truffled Pecorino Cheese – $17
BLANCO – Roasted Garlic, Grilled Zucchini, Smoked Scamorza, Calabrian Chili – $15
SALSICCE – Lamb Sausage, Bitter Greens, Cured Olives, Ricotta, Mint

Chocolate Molten lava cake dessert at Fiorenzo
Chocolate Molten lava cake dessert at Fiorenzo
Mango fruit sorbet with blackberries
Mango fruit sorbet with blackberries

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse’s private room accommodates 50-100 people and the main dining room accommodates up to 200. Each month, Fiorenzo also hosts a wine dinner with a four-course menu. My dining partner and I were so impressed that we can not wait to return, especially with a group of our friends for a special occasion.

Patrons of Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse enjoy complimentary valet parking (valid for visits 4 hours and less). Serving dinner daily from 6p – 10p. To make a reservation call 407-345-4570 or click here.

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse at Hyatt Regency Orlando
9801 International Drive,
Orlando, Florida, USA, 32819

Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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Just south of Walt Disney World off of I-4, a visit to Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate will transport you to a place where worries are far away. The recent addition of the “Ingredient of the Month” to their dining opportunities promoted by Omni’s Executive Chef Robert Ash will make you want to come visit the Omni soon, not to mention their 850-ft. lazy river, activity pool with slides and fountains, and a full course golfing experience.

Chef Robert Ash’s youthful looks belie his more than 20 years of experience, with a diverse background including training at L’Ecole Du Grand Chocolat in France and the International School of Confectionary Art in Maryland. His also served as Executive Chef of Milwaukee’s historic Preferred Hotel The Pfister, as well as Executive Chef/Director of Food and Beverage of the InterContinental Milwaukee and Executive Outlet Chef at the esteemed Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, rated Five-Star by Forbes and Five Diamond by AAA. Prior to that, Chef Ash worked at Parian Restaurant in the Regent International Hotel and for three-star Michelin Chef Jean Louis Palladin at Napa Restaurant in the Rio Suites Hotel of Las Vegas.

Chef Robert Ash recently told us about the new ingredient of the month events going on at the Omni. “I wanted to have the creative culinary team of chefs be able to showcase our local products here in Florida outside the standard menus we serve. So as I thought about it, I said why not feature one local based product a month and create weekly specials based on this ingredient and the seasonality of the ingredient.”

Omni's Executive Chef Robert Ash
Omni’s Executive Chef Robert Ash

“This would support our philosophy of supporting locally sustainable products and giving back to our community through food. So I took the seasons and created a 12 month calendar that would highlight a specific ingredient during the peak times available to us.”

“Our restaurant chefs now create 5 specials to showcase these outstanding ingredients from local farmers, fisherman, ranchers, foragers and such. We are also translating this into our catering side as well by creating fun local seasonal special menus for meeting planners to try something different than our traditional menu offerings which are far from traditional as it is.”

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I recently visited David’s Club to preview the new Ingredient of the Month menu for Fresh Local Corn and was thoroughly impressed.

David’s Club is Omni’s upscale sports bar with flat-screen televisions, fine cigars and cognacs and hand-cut steaks. For after dinner enjoyment, the Players Lounge features pool tables, darts and foosball, and the cigar terrace sparks laid- back conversations. David’s Club is named after David Leadbetter, the internationally acclaimed golf instructor – Omni Orlando is the world headquarters for The Leadbetter Golf Academy.

The featured corn is from Apopka’s very own local Long and Scott Farms, and the dishes turned out rather fabulous with them.

I savored the hushpuppies, little golden balls of fried goodness filled with smoked gouda cheese, corn, and cherrywood bacon with a house malted tartar sauce. The shrimp and grits entree was probably my favorite of the bunch, made with plump shrimps chock full of cajun spices and flavors with a nice blend of cheesy corn grits as a base. The chicken and waffles, with corn crusted chicken and jalapeno and cheddar corn bread style waffles was delicious, but probably did not need the sriracha maple syrup – maybe just regular maple syrup would suffice without the vinegary sriracha. The dessert was also a favorite, a sweet corn cake served with sweet corn and bacon ice cream made in house and some sprinkling of salted caramel corn.

The chicken mole tamale was the only miss of the list, a little too dry and in need of seasoning – but I was told they may be adjusting the menu still and may replace this one later this month.

IMG_1724Hushpuppies $8
smoked gouda cheese, nueske’s cherrywood bacon, house malted tartar sauce

IMG_1723Chicken Mole Tamale $9
mole sauce, queso fresco, tomato

IMG_1736Chicken and Waffles $20
corn crusted chicken, jalapeno and cheddar corn waffles, sriracha maple syrup

IMG_1745Shrimp n Grits $24
cajun bbq local shrimp, cheddar cheese grits, corn chutney

IMG_1749Corn Cake $8
sweet corn and bacon ice cream, salted caramel corn

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Trevi’s is Omni’s casual, Italian family eatery with breakfast buffets, brick oven flat breads, pizza and pasta, drawing flavor from its outdoor herb garden. It’s easy to write this place off as just another hotel restaurant due to the rather stereotypical hotel restaurant decor, but there is something there in the kitchen that makes the place stand out.

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Although this was a more South American take on the traditional bruschetta, the crisp corn, buttery avocado, and tomato version for the corn menu was absolutely delicious and refreshing. I liked the sea scallops, though it could have used a different sauce than the madeira sauce which overpowered some of the other flavors going on. Maybe a butter sauce would have been better suited for this dish. The sweet corn upside down cake is not to be missed, quite a feat of sophisticated techniques infusing lavender with peach – very nice.

IMG_1765 Roasted Corn Bruschetta $8
tomato, roasted garlic, avocado, tarrago creme fraiche

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grilled corn polenta, forest mushroom, madeira sauce

IMG_1767Atlantic Salmon $26
penne pasta, heirloom tomato, pancetta, corn pesto

IMG_1772Tuscan Chicken $22
corn risotto, charred roma tomato sauce

IMG_1774Sweet Corn Upside Down Cake $8
lavender scented peach, rosemary caramel, vanilla gelato

And in case you were wondering, next month’s ingredient of the month is local Florida shrimp.

IOTM Poster - JULY

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Omni Features Spectacular Washington State Wines from March 1 – May 31

Omni Hotels & Resorts’ popular culinary series, “Flavors of the World,” is back again this spring at Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate with a spotlight on the wines of Washington State.

“Taste Washington” will feature many of Washington State’s best wines in Omni bars and restaurants across the U.S., and will be accompanied by a food pairing menu of Washington-inspired cuisine.

The brand-wide program, running through May 31, 2014, is in partnership with the Washington State Wine Commission, and serves as an extension of the state’s own Taste Washington, an annual month-long March event in celebration of the wines from the region.

As part of the 2014 Omni Food & Beverage symposium, Washington state wineries shared a variety of wines that were sampled and then selected by Omni’s culinary team. Each participating hotel will offer ten unique Washington State wines, in both six and nine ounce pours.

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Omni Orlando Resort’s accompanying “Taste Washington” campaignstarting at $189/night, is available to guests through May 31, 2014, and includes an extra taste of the region with a Washington cheese plate, bottle of wine from Washington and the region’s finest apples delved in-room upon check-in.
Taste Washington is the highly anticipated 2014 Omni Flavors of the World campaign and joins a list of past annual programs. In the past, Omni Flavors of the World programs featured the wines and foods of Italy, Argentina, Spain and France.

 “We are proud to partner with Washington,” said David Morgan, vice president of food & beverage for Omni Hotels & Resorts. “Our Flavors of the World program was designed to offer our guests a unique experience, and we hope, with this installment, to further familiarize them with this incredible region by featuring some of the best wines in the country.”

The food pairing menu will be offered across participating hotels. With dishes inspired by local flavors and the indigenous cuisine of Washington State, guests can enjoy: Handmade Washington Cheeses served with fig jam, honey and olives, Dungeness Crab Fritters, Dungeness Crab and Snap Pea Soup, Apple and Fennel Salad, Roasted Salmon served with Wild Mushrooms and Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream.

Crab Fritters

To better understand the terroir and meet with featured wine makers, Omni food and beverage professionals undertook an intensive February trip that covered more than 50,000 acres of Washington State vineyards to experience and sample the wines first-hand. The team visited some of the 20 participating wineries, including Chateau Ste. Michelle, Hogue Cellars and Charles Smith Wines, gaining a deeper appreciation for the beautiful vineyards and vintages that will be showcased throughout Omni’s Taste Washington program.

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Washington State is the No. 2 premium wine grape grower in the U.S. The diverse topography allows for ideal grape growing conditions, making it one of the world’s great wine regions. In fact, over the past five years, nearly 50 percent of Washington State wines reviewed by wine lifestyle magazine, Wine Spectator,have received a score of 90 points or more, a higher average than regions such as California, Italy, France and Oregon. Washington State also offers the lowest price for its 90 point wines compared to those same wine regions, proving that Washington State wine is not only consistently high quality, but offers great value.

“We are so pleased to share Taste Washington with Omni Hotels and its guests,” said Rob Andersen, marketing director of the Washington State Wine Commission.  “What makes Washington wines so unique is the fact that our fruit is amazing.  After more than a year of planning and in-depth wine culture immersion, Omni truly understands why our wines are so special and they are an incredible brand partner to help extend our program nationwide.”

Omni’s accompanying “Taste Washington” package, available to guests from March 7, 2014 – May 31, 2014, includes an extra taste of the region with a Washington cheese plate, Washington bottle of wine and Washington apple delivered in-room upon check-in.

For more information about Taste Washington, please visit http://tastewashington.org.

For additional information, watch the Taste Washington video by clicking here.Guests may visit omnihotels.com or call 1-800-The-Omni. Travelers or media can also follow Omni Hotels & Resorts at www.Facebook.com/OmniHotels andTwitter.com/OmniHotels.

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Photos by Krystle Nguyen

Sushi Chef Asanuma Yoshio, better known as Chef Yoshi, practices his art inside Cascade American Bistro at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress. Long time Orlando residents may recognize Chef Yoshi, formerly the owner of the two-decades old Sushiman restaurant in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, who had to close the restaurant in October of 2006 after huge rent increases from the landlord.

Chef Yoshi, formerly of Sushiman, working the sushi rice with his fingers
Chef Yoshi, formerly of Sushiman, working the sushi rice with his fingers at Cascade American Bistro

Since 2007, Chef Yoshi has been working his skill at the Grand Cypress, offering his high quality and delicious sushi makimono rolls, nigiri sushi, and otsumami (snacks/small plates) menu at the Cascade American Bistro.

His sushi bar is slightly hidden, off to the side with several tables allocated to it, but remains a popular choice among discerning diners and visitors to the hotel restaurant. Though he is modest, you can tell he is very proud of his sushi creations.

Chef Yoshi presenting a special sushi plate full of nigiri, sashimi, and a maki roll
Chef Yoshi presenting a special sushi plate full of nigiri, sashimi, and a maki roll

I only wish that his bar will also get a nice upgrade in the coming months once the renovations begin for the restaurant – something with proper seats at the bar to watch the sushi chefs at work and enjoy a nice conversation over some poured Japanese sake.

Chef Yoshi shows off his knife skills through not only beautiful flower creations cut from cucumbers and carrots, but also in the way he cuts his fish for the sushi. The key to great sushi, in addition to great sourcing of fish, lies in the sushi rice, here perfectly balanced with flavors of rice vinegar, sugar, and salt.

Chef Yoshi is a traditionalist when it comes to sushi, preferring to let the ingredients speak for themselves and avoiding the trap laid by more Americanized sushi offerings like diluting flavors with heavy mayo sauces. Makimono roll prices range from $9 for simple tuna rolls to $19 for the dancing eel roll. Nigiri sushi prices range from $3 for tamago egg to $7.50 for uni sea urchin.

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A fabulous California roll, stuffed with krab salad, sliced avocado, fresh, crisp cucumber, fish roe,  and sprinkled with sesame seeds on the outside
A fabulous California roll, stuffed with krab salad, sliced avocado, fresh, crisp cucumber, fish roe, and sprinkled with sesame seeds on the outside
Sweet Raw Shrimp "Ama Ebi" with head on - This is probably for the more advanced level sushi lovers out there, but definitely worth a try here under Chef Yoshi's care. I've had raw shrimp before in Tokyo, but the one prepared here was 10 times better, just sweet and smooth. Make sure to remove the head before eating though.
Sweet Raw Shrimp “Ama Ebi” with head on – This is probably for the more advanced level sushi lovers out there, but definitely worth a try here under Chef Yoshi’s care. I’ve had raw shrimp before in Tokyo, but the one prepared here was 10 times better, just sweet and smooth. Make sure to remove the head before eating though.
Salmon roe sushi - little, salty pearls of fish eggs that just pop in your mouth with flavors of the sea.
Salmon roe sushi – little, salty pearls of fish eggs that just pop in your mouth with flavors of the sea.
Unagi eel nigiri sushi - nicely grilled
Unagi eel nigiri sushi – nicely grilled
Tamago - a sweet Japanese egg omelet prepared with a little mirin rice wine and sugar, can be one of the hardest things to master in the sushi world. Done well here, with flavors on par with tamago found in the streets on the outer markets of Tsukiji in Tokyo.
Tamago – a sweet Japanese egg omelet prepared with a little mirin rice wine and sugar, can be one of the hardest things to master in the sushi world. Done well here, with flavors on par with tamago found in the streets on the outer markets of Tsukiji in Tokyo.
Dynamite Roll, Spider Roll, and Volcano Roll
Dynamite Roll, Spider Roll, and Volcano Roll
Dynamite roll - tuna with wasabi mayo and cucumber, sprinkled with  sesame seeds  and sliced green onion on the outside
Dynamite roll – tuna with wasabi mayo and cucumber, sprinkled with sesame seeds
and sliced green onion on the outside
Volcano roll - chopped scallop, spicy mayo on top of California roll with cream cheese
Volcano roll – chopped scallop, spicy mayo on top of California roll with cream cheese
Seek out Chef Yoshi and his sushi chef partner soon at Cascade American Bistro, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress
Seek out Chef Yoshi and his sushi chef partner soon for some of the freshest sushi in town at Cascade American Bistro, Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress

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Although most readers may be familiar with A Land Remembered, one of my favorite places for steak in town – nearby Cala Bella – also located at Rosen Shingle Creek – is not on most people’s radars even though it is one of the few AAA Four Diamond rated restaurants in town.

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Cala Bella is Rosen Shingle Creek’s upscale Italian restaurant features inspired Italian classics with a Mediterranean and American twist, accompanied by an extensive wine list.

The inspiration of the name Cala Bella, or “Beautiful Creek” in English, comes from owner Mr. Harris Rosen’s celebration of Florida’s history and the unique history of Shingle Creek itself.

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Visitors can sit in the main dining room and enjoy the sunset over the golf course outside or view the open kitchen and watch the chefs prepare dishes over open flames.

The Cala Bella sampler platter is a good start, a hearty platter filled with house made meatballs, calamari fritte, bruschetta Cala Bella, and antipasto.

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My dining partner, a seafood lover, ordered the Cala Bella seafood pescatore – a must try, slightly spicy, very flavorful and earthy saffron tomato broth serves as the base for this dish in which Australian lobster tail, Little Neck clams, mussels, shrimp, and scallops are braised.

Cala Bella seafood pescatore
Cala Bella seafood pescatore

I ordered the hefty, succulent rack of marinated herb roasted Cala Bella New Zealand lamb chops with pickled garlic, shallots, and rosemary minted marsala, accompanied with a side of the daily risotto. Fantastic.

 Cala Bella New Zealand lamb chops
Cala Bella New Zealand lamb chops

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Prices are geared more towards the expense account carriers out there, but locals can have a good bargain by going on Restaurant.com and getting a discounted gift certificate to Cala Bella to make it more budget friendly.

Cala Bella Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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The Swan and Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World hosted its 4th Annual Food and Wine Classic last weekend October 18-19, 2013 featuring a diverse selection of innovative cuisine by award-winning chefs.

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Returning for its fourth year, the Food and Wine Classic features resort chefs’ dishes and drinks from around the world.

Signature restaurants that participated include Shula’s Steak House, Il Mulino New York Trattoria and Todd English’s bluezoo – all located on the premises of the Swan and Dolphin hotel.

There is a certain magic about the Food and Wine Classic that leaves me in complete awe. From the educational seminars to exploring culinary innovation, my mind and taste buds were deeply satisfied.

I had the opportunity to join the festivities on Friday evening and the view of the sunset glistening over the water with talented musicians performing in the background made this evening perfect.

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Tony Porcellini has been with the Swan and Dolphin for 26 years and oversees 17 restaurants on the property. He is noted for his groundbreaking concepts and venues, such as Shula’s Steakhouse and Bluezoo.

The most valuable part of my evening was attending the Wine Blending Seminar with Tony Porcellini, Certified Sommelier and Director of Food and Beverage.

Tony explores the origin, flavor, and characteristics of the five classic Bordeaux red varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet France, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

It was truly a delight to create my own red wine blends while pairing it with delicious samples of cheese and jelly – what fun!

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From the art of pasta making, champagne, sake, beer, to white and red wines, there were plenty of seminars to choose from of which I wish I had the time to learn from them all.

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Experimenting with a plastic measuring pipette to fill different percentages of the component wines
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The beginning of my bordeaux blend creation – 30% Cabernet Franc and 20% Petit Verdot

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Shula’s Steak House: Carved Prime Rib, Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Horseradish, Creme Fraiche, Watercress
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Cabana Bar & Beach Club: Belle & Evans Farm Chicken Yakitori, Edamame Relish, Lemongrass Foam
Todd English’s Bluezoo featuring the freshest seafood
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Todd English’s Bluezoo: Oyster Shooter, Huckleberry Champagne Vinegar, Huckleberry Foam
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Bluezoo team uses liquid nitrogen to prepare one of the components in the tuna tartare
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Bluezoo’s Molecular Gastronomy – miso is cooked and frozen in liquid nitrogen to create cracklins for the tuna tartare
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Todd English’s Bluezoo: Tuna Tartare, Sexy Scallions, Nitro Aioli Miso Crackling
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Todd English’s Bluezoo: Rock Shrimp Tacos, Creamy Jalapeno Slaw, Pickled Onion Micro Cilantro
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Il Mulino New York Trattoria: Preparing hand cut garganelli with veal cheek ragu
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The Fountain: Falafel with Chick Pea Fritter, Tahini, and Traditional Garnish
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Fresh Mediterranean Market: Thai Chicken Salad, Organic Greens, Green Papaya, Tamarind with Ginger Dressing
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Garden Grove: Open Face Tomato & Handcrafted Mozzarella Sandwich, Sweet Basil, Locatelli
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Todd English’s Bluezoo: “Short Rib Oscar”: Braised Beef Short Rib, Maryland Blue Crab, Asparaus, ISI Hollandaise
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Todd English’s Bluezoo: “Short Rib Oscar”: Braised Beef Short Rib, Maryland Blue Crab, Asparaus, ISI Hollandaise
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Picabu: Taqueria-Corn Tortilla Barbacoa of Beef, Braised Pork, Organic Vegetables, Cheddar Cheese, Lime Wedge, Lettuce, Onion, Shaved Radish, Pico de Gallo with a hint of hot sauce
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Picabu Barbacoa of Beef and Braised Pork Tacos
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Kimonos: Crispy Shrimp, Tuna, Salmon, Avocado Sushi
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Cib’s Smokehouse: Texas Style Beef Brisket, Brioche Puree, Rhubarb Pudding
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“O Saint O” Orange Cream Filled Puff, Milk Chocolate Covered Orange Cookie and Vanilla Whipped Cream
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“Tropic” (Shot Glass) Passion Fruit Cream, Mango Papaya Pineapple Compote, Coconut Cake, Mango Vanilla Sauce
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“Intense” Flourless Chocolate Sponge and Arriba 72% Chocolate Mousse
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Plate of Delectable Pastry and Desserts! My mouth is watering just remembering the taste of all this..

The event is so vibrant that you can enjoy it with a group of friends or your significant other for a fun date.

With over 40 food and beverage stations, there was never a moment wasted as you can imagine the endless myriad of dishes and wines. And the experience would not have been complete without the wine blending seminar.

Some of my favorites included Shula’s Carved Prime Rib, Todd English’s Short Rib Oscar and Oyster Champagne Shooters.

Each dish was prepared fresh to order and fast on-site to accommodate the large number of attendees while still maintaining the flavors and quality. I really appreciate the amount of effort it took to plan a beautiful evening and the friendly representation at every booth. Well done to the entire team at Walt Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin for the Food and Wine Classic! Can’t wait till next year’s selections – only 12 months away…

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Photos by TastyChomps.com‘s Krystle Nguyen

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek resorts are hosting the third annual Orlando Food & Wine Weekends, which runs Friday and Saturday evenings Sept. 27 – Nov. 9, 2013. The menus that the restaurants are running this year both surprised and delighted my taste buds and were truly a culinary experience to seek out. This past weekend, I was invited to visit and sample some of the menus available.

For seven weekends, the resorts are featuring these special programming and events aimed to complement and “fill the gaps” around the wildly popular Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival held at the nearby Disney theme park.

They are serious here about food.

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“For the past 19 years, Disney has done an amazing job of building their Food & Wine Festival at Epcot,” said Peter Kacheris, managing director of Waldorf Astoria Orlando. “As the festival has grown, so has the public’s appetite for additional culinary-focused experiences. We’ve created our Orlando Food & Wine Weekends to highlight our own world-class culinary team while we complement the Epcot festival.”

Orlando Food & Wine Weekends events will be held at Waldorf Astoria Orlando, and at its sister resort, Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, located less than one mile from Epcot, and accessible inside the gates of Walt Disney World® Resort.

Event highlights include:

• A Taste of Waldorf Astoria® at the Bull and Bear Restaurant
Exclusive tasting menus and wine pairings from the master chefs of many of the most renowned hotels in the Waldorf Astoria brand. Guests will enjoy a degustation menu comprised of some of the most celebrated dishes from Waldorf Astoria hotels around the world, paired with exquisite wines. The menu features dishes from Rome to France to New Orleans and right here in Orlando. Offered Friday and Saturday evenings, 6pm – 11pm, Bull & Bear.

• Il Cibo Della Vita at La Luce by Donna Scala
From the kitchen of La Luce by Donna Scala at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, each weekend from Sept. 27 – Nov. 9, a new tasting menu and wine pairing will be unveiled, featuring chef Scala’s newest recipes – many being presented for the first time. This series of culinary experiences is certain to be the talk of the town! Friday & Saturday evenings, 5pm – 11pm, La Luce by Donna Scala.

• Pea Ringu – The Art of Sushi Pairing at Zeta Bar and Sushi Lounge
An exciting epicurean journey awaits as the culinary team of Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge explore perfect pairings for our favorite sushi dishes including beer, sake and wine. Friday and Saturday evenings, Zeta Bar & Sushi Lounge at Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek.

• Bar du Chocolat and champagne tasting
Decadent, yes. Sinful, perhaps. Most certainly an experience for those with a sweet tooth. Peacock Alley will be transformed into a chocolate-lovers’ dream, offering a cocoa-infused evening of self-indulgence paired with a selection of fine champagnes. Guests can choose from a signature selection of chocolate treats from the Waldorf Astoria Orlando’s world-class pastry team using recipes from the most romantic points of the globe. Friday and Saturday evenings, 6pm – 10pm, Peacock Alley at Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

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• Live Entertainment – nightly at Peacock Alley

• Royal Tea, A New Waldorf Astoria Orlando Tradition
Guests will treasure time together as they savor finely-prepared tea sandwiches and house-made pastries while sipping premium hot tea and listening to live piano music. Sundays, 3pm – 5pm, Peacock Alley at Waldorf Astoria Orlando.

• Astoria After Dark – Adults are not the only ones to have fun. The WA Kids Club is offering a nightly children’s program including dinner and a non-stop roster of fun activities – providing parents some “adult time” in which to experience Orlando Food & Wine Weekends activities. Friday and Saturday evenings, 6pm – 10pm.

Photos taken by Krystle Nguyen with the Nikon D5000 DSLR

Pea Ringu – The Art of Sushi Pairing at Zeta Bar and Sushi Lounge

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The sushi at Zeta Bar and Sushi Lounge, made by some of Orlando’s best sushi chefs, is among some of the best I found in town. The decor is ultra modern and the setting is reminiscent of a swanky night club.

The tasting menu at Zeta Bar and Sushi Lounge features chef-inspired sushi served in a bento box and paired with specially selected beverages all for $35.

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 Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake,  Schloss Vollrads Kabinett 2011, Takara Plum Wine, Cigar City Florida Cracker White Ale

Pea Ringu bento box
Pea Ringu bento box

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Nori Cracker – Seared Tuna served over Nori Crackers with Avocado, Spicy Mayo and Smelt Roe – Paired with Cigar City Florida Cracker White Ale

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Bonzai Roll – Spicy Tuna Roll topped with Barbequed Eel, Avocado, Eel Sauce and Tempura Crunch and served with a sample of Red Snapper and Salmon Nigiri- Paired with Schloss Vollrads Kabinett 2011

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Fried Dumplings – Pork Gyoza and Vegetables fried with a Ginger and Shallot Vinaigrette – Paired with Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake

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Fire Cracker – Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno, topped with Tobiko Yuzo dressing, Tamari Shoyu and Truffle Oil – Paired with Takara Plum Wine

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Hiyashi Wakame – Classic Japanese Seaweed Salad – Paired with Gekkeikan Zipang Sparkling Sake 

A Taste of Waldorf Astoria® at the Bull and Bear Restaurant

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The Bull and Bear Restaurant at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando is one of the finest restaurants in Orlando and is probably one of the most overlooked – the food here blew my and my dining companions’ gastronomic minds on our recent visit.

The restaurant  is led by Executive Chef Massimo Falsini, a world class chef who has served as Executive chef at Hilton in Dubai along with Sous Chef Daniel Tederous, a former executive chef at The Capital Grille, Tampa, along with a list of fine restaurants in Atlanta.

If Orlando had a Michelin guide, the Bull and Bear at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando would be one of the few restaurants in Orlando I could see easily making the list.

The tasting menu “A Taste of Waldorf Astoria” may sound a bit humble, but look closer and realize that it is a compilation of 7 dishes from all the best Waldorf Astorias from all around the world, including Orlando. Truly the definition of the ultimate luxurious foodie dream, and well worth the $110 per person, plus tax and gratuity.

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Rome Cavalieri (La Pergola, 3 Michelin Starred) – Rome, Italy
45 DAY DRY AGED PRIME BEEF PAPER, AMARANTH CRACKER, BELUGA CAVIAR
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DSC_6370 Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah – Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
VELVET OF CORAL LENTILS, CUMIN CROUTONS, LEMON ESSENCE
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DSC_6384 Trianon Palace Versailles (Gordon Ramsay au Trianon) – Versailles, France
RAVIOLI OF LANGOUSTINE AND LOBSTER STEAMED IN RIESLING BISQUE, LIME BOUILLABAISSE on top of shrimp, oyster

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DSC_6392 The Roosevelt New Orleans – New Orleans, France
FILET OF RED FISH, OYSTER POCHE AU BEURRE BLANC, MAQUE CHOUX
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DSC_6401 Waldorf Shanghai on the Bund – Shanghai, China
LAKE MEADOW ORGANIC CHICKEN, CRISPY MILLET, GREEN PAPAYA CHUTNEY, GREEN CURRY
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DSC_6406 Waldorf Astoria Orlando
PINOT BRAISED BISON RIBS, PARSNIPS THREE WAYS, SUC DE CUISSON
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DSC_6450 Waldorf Astoria Berlin, Germany
BERLINER PFANNKUCHEN, raspberry creme filled donut

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Both hotels are offering packages that include a $50 resort/dining credit. The popular Best of Waldorf Astoria package includes deluxe accommodations, a $50 daily dining/resort credit, and complimentary scheduled transportation to Epcot® (and other Disney theme parks). Rates starting from $269 per night. For more information or reservations, please visit www.waldorfastoriaorlando.com/food-wine , or call +1 888-353-2009, and reference promotion code PBBWW1.

At Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek, the Bonnet Creek Fall Retreat package includes deluxe accommodations, a $50 daily dining/resort credit, daily parking and internet and complimentary scheduled transportation to Disney theme parks. Rates starting from $199 per night. For more information or reservations, please visit http://www.hiltonbonnetcreek.com/food-wine, or call +1 888-353-2013, and reference promotion code BCFT.

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The Crimson Tavern – a new contemporary American restaurant – recently opened inside the Orlando Airport Marriott off of Semoran Blvd with a focus on sourcing local ingredients. This is a worldwide theme among the Marriott hotel restaurants, as those who are familiar with Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen at the World Center Marriott and Primo at the JW Marriott Grande Lakes know, there has really been a big push in the past few years to source higher quality, local ingredients. Primo is one of the first to lead the way here in Central Florida in that philosophy.

They take the locally sourced concept up a notch here at Crimson Tavern, under the helm of Executive Chef Tony Hull, with a 5000 square foot chef’s garden at the back of the hotel near the pond.

Where there used to be a mostly unused volleyball court, now sits a space that could be used for events as well as rows of chard, peppers, herbs, mango and other delightful and surprising vegetables and fruits. These greens are then picked to be used as ingredients for the night’s specials or other dishes, whatever mother nature allows.

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Chef Tony Hull inspects some of the greens in the garden at the Orlando Airport Marriott

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Peppers growing in the chef’s garden

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Squash blossoms in bloom

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 Chards and greens

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For those ingredients not found in their garden, they source heavily from a list of local farms and companies such as:

Winter Park Honey
Satur Farm
Long & Scott Farm
Lake Meadows Naturals
Palmetto Creek
Creekstone Natural Angus
Tanglewood Farms Poultry
MyYard Farm
Loch Duarte Salmon
Uncle Matts Citrus
Muse Gelato
Orlando Brewing Company

As a part of a recent media dinner at The Crimson Tavern, I was able to experience some of the offerings found here at the new restaurant. Inside the hotel, the restaurant takes over the space previously occupied by the Porterhouse steakhouse and is now refurbished with dark reds and grays, giving it an almost American colonial feel.

The dinner menu is comprised mostly of small plates and appetizers conducive as accompaniments to drinking, but there is also a list of heartier entree items like steaks, fish, burger and pork dishes if you so choose.

For a tavern, I would have expected more than 6 of the craft beers listed on their menu, in addition to the usual line up of domestics and imports, but maybe they will be adding more in the future to their drink offerings. There is however a very nice selection of cocktails and wines along with the beers that guests can enjoy.

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Starting off at the top of the menu is their selection of cured meats and cheeses entitled “Room & Board” with plates like salumi, Benton ham, and cheeses.

The salumi plate was a favorite, coming with sopressata molinari, spicy coppa, speck, mortadella, served with bread selection, house pickled trio and mustard.

The Benton ham selection is a colorful board with cured Tennessee country ham with a side of pepper jelly and delicious warm baked biscuits.

Also, the Australian goat feta cheese with olive oil cheese plate selection was savory and decadent – I wanted to finish the whole plate of cheeses. I think I would have been satisfied with just these three dishes for the meal.

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Salumi 16
sopressata molinari, spicy coppa, speck, mortadella, served with bread selection, pickle trio and mustard

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Benton Ham 9
tennessee country ham with a side of pepper jelly, warm biscuits

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Cheese 8
served with specialty bread and cracker selection
creamy goat feta, australia – extra virgin olive oil, pistachio

Other satisfying appetizers and bites from the menu included a fantastic house baked Soft Pretzel, served warm with beer-smoked cheddar dip and Fried Green Tomatoes, with black pepper aioli.

The African and southern influenced Black Eyed Hushpuppies, served with a cilantro chutney, was a delicate, interesting take on the usually boring appetizer.

The House Burger, made with juicy, tender beef and topped with caramelized onion, gruyere cheese, house made bread & butter pickles, on sesame bun was one of my favorite burgers that I have had this year but may be a bit pricy at $16.

The ribeye steak with house mustard greens was also a favorite, very tender and flavorful with a nice sear at the perfect requested medium rare temperature.

There were a few items that I weren’t such a big fan of like the Smoked Trout Rillette, which needed a little more creamy texture and flavor, and the Boudin Noir Sausage with apple slaw and the beef cheek empanadas which both had some flavors that I personally disagreed with.

Make sure to save room for dessert though, as the Crimson Tavern’s specialty “Knickerbocker Glory” is definitely something to try. The Knickerbocker Glory is named for the traditional british ice cream sundae, made with locally crafted milk gelato from Muse Gelato layered extra high with decadent toppings, creams, crumbles and drizzles. The choices come as:

Key Lime, tangy graham cracker crumbs, toasted marshmallow
Warm Butterscotch, salted peanuts, whipped cream, crumbled ginger snaps
Brownie, dark and white chocolate, brownie bits, chocolate cream, piroutte cookie
Classic, mixed berries, raspberry puree, whipped cream, gaufrette wafer, cherry on top

Overall, the Crimson Tavern left me with a very favorable impression, with dishes that aren’t afraid to push the bounds of every day fare found in Orlando, yet also quite tasty and fun to eat. I can imagine myself coming here often after work to share a few drinks with friends and bites, especially as there are so few good options in the Orlando International Airport/Lake Nona area. Hopefully they can continue to improve on their menu and will become a popular spot among not only those flying in and out of the airport, but with local Orlando denizens as well.

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Soft Pretzel, served warm with beer-smoked cheddar dip 8

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Anthony Hull –  Executive Chef

Inspired by both his English born grandmothers, at the age of 13, Anthony began cooking by their side in their kitchens in England. His “hands on” experience baking, pickling, making jams from fruits harvested from the garden created a passion for cooking that is still strong 30 years later.

Turning his passion into a career, Chef Hull studied in London, England before beginning his first culinary position at the Café Royale in London. To gain as much experience as possible Chef Hull then took a position as a pastry cook at the Sheraton Skyline Hotel, London under Executive Chef Uwe Zander

Seeking International experience, Chef Hull accepted a position in the Cayman Islands with the Hyatt Regency Resort and then The Westin Cauarina Beach Resort and Spa overseeing Casa Havana the only four star restaurant located on the island at the time.

A proven accomplished chef, he accepted an opportunity in Tampa, Florida and then in 2002 joined Marriott International.

Trained in classical French cooking. Chef Hull takes these basic fundamentals and techniques and applys them with a modern twist to showcase the ingredient in its purist form embracing the seasons and local artisans.

When he is able to take time away he enjoys spending family time teaching his children to cook or exploring new restaurants and cuisines with his Wife

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Lake Meadows Deviled Egg 8

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Fried Green Tomatoes, black pepper aioli 6

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Black Eyed Hushpuppies, cilantro chutney 6

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manchego, spain – quince paste, fig jam

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Boudin Noir Sausage, apple slaw 11

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Beef cheek empanadas

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Chicken liver mousse

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Ribeye steak with house mustard greens

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House Burger, caramelized onion, gruyere cheese, bread & butter pickles, sesame bun 16

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Warm Butterscotch Knickerbocker Glory

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Crimson Tavern on Urbanspoon

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On Saturday January 26, 2013, Orlando World Center Marriott opened their newest restaurant, Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen, which takes the place of their previous Italian restaurant Ristorante Tuscany. I was recently invited by the team at Siro’s to sample some of their dishes during a media event. The space has undergone major renovations, now highlighting a more warm, wooded and industrial atmosphere…which reminded me of a particular favorite restaurant of mine in Winter Park.

I was delighted to find that the new philosophy for the restaurant was an emphasis on seasonal, local ingredients. More and more restaurants are turning toward local and seasonal and I wholeheartedly support this movement, particularly because the food tastes so much better when it isn’t being shipped from halfway across the world.

The list of local farms and ingredients include:

Lake Meadow Farms – eggs and honey
Harvest Moon – produce
Seely’s Ark – chicken thighs
Dansk Farms – honey
Waterkist Farms – heirloom tomatoes
Cedar Creek farms –little neck clams
Infusion Tea- hot tea
Oyster Island mushroom company- asst. mushrooms
Monroe Ashby- pig
Coffee Roasters’ Alliance -coffee
Two Doves Organic Farm- lettuce, Swiss chard, kale.
Cigar City Brewing – craft beer

They will start using Palm Ridge whiskey in the next few weeks as well.

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Aged Italia – Breckenridge bourbon, blood orange aged balsamic, blackberry syrup

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Beer flights featuring craft beer and imports

From artisan cured meats and cheeses, small plates and fresh market vegetables, dishes served on oversized wooden planks, thin-crust pizzas and house-made pastas to various meats and fish selections, Siro has made a strong emphasis on quality sourced food.  Some of my favorites included the  Green, eggs & ham pizza with arugula, prosciutto, sunny side egg, the housemade burger, Chef Burdo’s veal meatballs, and the zeppole donuts for dessert.

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Executive Chef Burdo at the helm of Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen

These signature dishes enhance the restaurant’s extensive drink menu, as bartenders and mixologists prepare handcrafted Italian classics from the Negroni and Aperol Spritz to the “The Artisan,” Lemoncello Martini – complete with fresh squeezed juices and fragrant herbs.

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Chef Burdo’s Famous Veal meatballs in a pomodoro tomato sauce

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Siro’s Charcuterie boards of cheeses, olives, and cured meats

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Eggplant Caponata served with whipped ricotta cheese on bakehouse bread

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Arborio fritters, made with rice robiola, black garlic, and a spicy arrabiata sauce

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Margherita Pizza

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Bucatini pasta with the red lead, a traditional sunday gravy

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The BuRGeR – oWC bakehouse bun, house pickles

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Preparing the whole Grilled Grouper, served with braised fennel, peperonato

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Braised pork shank on top of white beans

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Aged Italia
Breckenridge bourbon, blood
orange aged balsamic,
blackberry syrup

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Desserts, like this panna cotta – milk chocolate, berries, are led by award winning pastry chef Ramon Perez

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Chocolate Cake

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Siro accommodates 199 guests – 143 in the main dining room and 56 on the patio – for everyday dining and special events. The early-evening menu, from 4 – 6 pm, features Antipasti, small plates, pizza and blackboard specials, in addition to a full bar. Dinner, from 6 – 11 pm, features a full menu.

For additional information on Siro, call Orlando World Center Marriott at 407-239-4200 or visit www.marriottworldcenter.com and www.siroorlando.com.

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Anna of the Zimmerman Agency with Mark Baratelli of TheDailyCity.com and Rachelle Lucas of Visit Florida Dining and TheTravelBite.com

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The wonderful staff and chefs of Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen at Orlando World Center Marriott

Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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I had always thought it was a bit odd for a restaurant named after the famous wine country in California to be specializing in “local, fresh” Florida dishes, but Napa, located inside the Peabody Hotel next to the Orange County Convention Center, brings not only an extensive wine list but also the sustainable farm-to-fork cuisine first popularized by the Napa Valley region.

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Napa brings the local, organic, sustainable movement to Florida with dishes like steamed Cape Canaveral Clams in an Orlando Brewing Red Ale broth, whole fried Yellowtail Snapper with escabeche rice and fried plantains, and Florida Heritage chicken confit quesadillas.

The restaurant itself is very modern, with a beautiful bar area and earth toned fittings, and wine bottles lined up along the walls and around the restaurant. I recently visited Napa to take advantage of the Visit Orlando Magical Dining Month specials. The prices here typically are on the level of fine dining, but the Magical Dining special this September enables locals to try the restaurant out and experience three courses with the high quality of food for a very reasonable price point of $30.

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For appetizer, I ordered a very fresh, very delicious orange braised Heart of Christmas beet salad, made with arugula, Winter Park bleu cheese, candied pecans, and balsamic orange beet vinaigrette, featuring local vegetables from Heart of Christmas farms. The little orange pieces just bursted with flavors, and everything was very tasty, as if they were picked off the farm just this morning. If only the produce at local supermarkets tasted the same I think we would have a much easier time eating our veggies. My partner chose the tangy, tart Fire roasted Waterkist Farm Heirloom Tomato soup, made with tomatoes from local Waterkist Farms of Winter Park, and a dollop of basil creme fraiche.

For entree, I chose the Meyer Ranch Natural Beef Filet (typically $42 alone on the regular menu), a hearty piece of filet mignon steak, seared to perfection and the exactly requested medium rare, served with fingerling potatoes, fall vegetable hash in a salty red wine reduction. The beef filet was very filling and savory, and the accompaniments tasted great as well. My partner chose the Cioppino, a southern twist on the California favorite, composed of a spicy stew of mussels, calamari, lump crab, rock shrimp, mahi mahi, fennel, leeks, spicy tomato broth, and paprika rouille.

For the dessert, I chose the Amaretto Dark Chocolate Bar, a creamy, sticky, decadent, yet surprisingly light chocolate dessert served with a side of cafe latte gelato and topped with caramelized popcorn. This is probably one of my favorite desserts of all time after this experience. My partner chose the likewise delicious rustic apple tart, served with vanilla ice cream and roasted pecan.

Service here was good, but not the greatest, and certainly not what I expected from a fine dining restaurant. Our server was friendly, but disappeared for rather long lengths of time. I noticed that it may have been due to a staff shortage, as there were several other parties around us that were waiting for service as well.

Overall, I thought Napa at The Peabody Hotel executes the philosophy of Napa Valley, of local, fresh, and sustainable fare whenever possible with great flair and is definitely worth a try, especially if you love fresh, delicious tasting food.

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FIRE ROASTED WATERKIST FARM HEIRLOOM TOMATO SOUP
Blistered tomatoes, basil crème fraiche, napa extra virgin olive oil

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ORANGE BRAISED HEART OF CHRISTMAS BEET SALAD
Arugula, winter park blue cheese, fiery candied pecans, balsamic orange beet vinaigrette

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CIOPPINO
Mussels, calamari, lump crab, rock shrimp, mahi mahi, fennel, leeks, spicy tomato broth, paprika rouille

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MEYER RANCH NATURAL BEEF FILET
Fingerling potato and fall vegetable hash, red wine reduction

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AMARETTO DARK CHOCOLATE BAR
Café latte gelato and caramelized pop corn

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RUSTIC APPLE TART
Burnt vanilla ice cream, roasted pecan

Napa at The Peabody on Urbanspoon

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La Luce, Italian for the Light

Beautifully haunting scenes created with chalk hang inside the restaurant at La Luce inside the Hilton Orlando at Bonnet Creek. A fountain, a street scene, all images that will be swept away in a few months. The changing art of Edson Campos and Kathleen Brodeur capture the seasonality of the ever changing cuisine at La Luce, transforming every couple of months to something new and strikingly beautiful.

La Luce

Art made from chalk at La Luce

Hilton Bonnet creek

We don’t often get the chance to go out to the hotel restaurants in our area to try their culinary offerings. Usually, it’s either due to budget constraints (where the corporate account card comes in handy for hotel visitors) or because they are often located far away in never, never land (where the tourists go). However, often times, because of the high traffic volume and the constancy of the crowds and their appetites, some of the best food in Orlando, arguably, can be found in these hotels. La Luce by Donna Scala inside the new Hilton at Bonnet Creek is one of them.

The story of how Bonnet Creek’s Wyndham, Waldorf Astoria, and Hilton hotels came to be is actually quite interesting. The pocket of land known as Bonnet Creek, though located well inside the Disney World complex, is actually not a part of Disney World. It’s kind of a rebel outpost, if you will. The owners of the land, so the story goes, never answered when Walt came by years ago to buy up the land. The land was never sold, until recently, when hotel developers came and made them an offer. I would imagine it was a considerable sum, an offer that they could not refuse. And so if you are driving to find the Bonnet Creek hotels, you will find nary a sign indicating how to find it inside Disney.

Back to La Luce.

La Luce’s Chef Donna Scala (of Napa Valley’s Bistro Don Giovanni), has earned a reputation throughout the culinary community as a food purist, with dishes that are prepared with the freshest local ingredients. An extremely passionate and very lively chef in person, Chef Donna recently visited Orlando to talk about her new seasonal items and answered questions.

Her favorite thing to cook? Pastas, she loves to make salads and pizzas but pasta is her favorite.

“People don’t take it (pasta) as seriously as they do in Italy, it is the heart of everything you do,” Donna said.

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The menu at La Luce melds together Italian traditions and Napa Valley’s unique approach to fresh cuisine. Thin pizzas, lasagnas, fresh Italian cuisine prepared “the way it was meant to be: hearty, yet not overwhelming”.

While Chef Donna Scala is away in Napa Valley, Chef Alexander Rodrigues is Executive Chef for La Luce and Chef Ed Gee is Executive Pastry Chef. One of the chefs at La Luce, Chef Alberto Navarette has spent 19 years working alongside Donna Scala, developing his signature pasta dishes with a love for Italian ingredients. He started as a dishwasher and moved to every station until he came to where he is today.

Samplings of the menu at La Luce follow:

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Spaghetti with clams, cherry tomatoes, saffron, calabria peppers

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Cabernet sauvignon from Scala

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Roasted Chicken and Pork on top of Pan-fried Faro
The chicken skin is cooked in duck fat, giving it a lovely, crispy duck flavor. The faro, an ancient Tuscan grain similar to barley, and a favorite of Donna’s, is toasted in the oven.

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Affogato – espresso with ice cream, roasted hazelnuts, and cocoa powder

A creation of Francis Metais, Food and Beverage Director at Hilton Bonnet Creek, a Pastry Chef by training, this was my first time ever having this wonderful European style dessert made with pouring some espresso on top of the ice cream and roasted hazelnuts. Wonderful.

What I liked the most about the food at La Luce was how “light” everything felt, like the dishes at Seasons 52, where the fresh ingredients and cooking methods cause the dishes to taste so much more healthier without compromising the great, hearty flavor found in Italian cuisine. This often contrasts with a lot of the dishes out there today and what I think is so unique about La Luce. I can see why they recently won Best Hotel Restaurant in the Orlando Sentinel Foodies Awards 2011 and the great team for the Hilton Bonnet Creek’s Food and Beverage recently received top scores in excellence. Keep on shining!

La Luce By Donna Scala on Urbanspoon

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A Land Remembered, a classic “Florida” style steakhouse in Rosen Shingle Creek resort,
 is named after Patrick Smith’s rich novel featuring Florida’s historical moments and landscapes. I actually had no idea that the name for the restaurant was based on a book about the early days of Florida, but in my mind the name conjured up images of Florida’s wilderness, its ranching and cattle heritage, and of course, with cows come, delicious steaks. I had visited A Land Remembered once before during Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month and was thoroughly impressed with the slightly hidden steakhouse – found through a covered walkway off to the left side of the grand Rosen Shingle Creek resort. I was recently invited to visit again to sample their cuisine and left solidifying my earlier good impressions with much to remember and linger on after.

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The Rosen Shingle Creek Resort is located on Universal Blvd just north of SR 528 and just a few blocks away from the Orange County Convention Center. A Land Remembered is not known much outside of the convention area as its location is inside (really, off to the side) of the hotel. Decked in dark woods and old Florida themes, A Land Remembered can be seen as a throwback to the old days of Central Florida’s cattle-raising history. The steaks here truly are superb.

Before we get to that, I must note that the restaurant is rated as an AAA Four Diamond restaurant, and the quality and service shows. The servers here on both occasions were attentive without being intrusive, and gracious without being too uptight. The recommendations for dinner were spot on and they made sure to check on us throughout the meal.

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Interestingly enough, the restaurant tries its best to feature classic “Florida” in many of its dishes such as the Gator Creek Stew, a hearty, though a bit too mild, chili dish made with “Gator Drool” beer, white beans, tomatos, cabbage, a touch of tabasco, tomato, and farm raised gator. The gator in this dish reminded me alot of ground turkey or ground beef, very mild tasting, I imagine so not to scare off any of the visiting tourists. The “Gator Drool” beer used in this dish and a few others on the menu is produced by a local Florida microbrewery from Melbourne exclusively for Rosen Hotels. The beer was inspired by Central Florida Hotelier  Mr. Harris Rosen upon encountering the “Moose Drool” beer during a trip to Vermont. I find it touching to see the level of detail that Mr. Rosen put into not only his Rosen hotel empire, but also into the intricacies of decor and even the ingredients served in his restaurants.

For appetizers, they served a pair of delicious crab cakes made with real lump crab from Maryland with a side of lemon as well as big and plump scallops from Prince Edward Island, bought, I was told, locally from Lombardi’s Seafood market in Winter Park.

A Land Remembered features Harris Ranch Black Angus Five Diamond Prime Beef, the same beef that’s served at the famed Bern’s Steakhouse in Tampa, Florida. The taste is exquisite. I had the bone-in ribeye steak, a juicy, slightly-charred cut served perfectly at the desired medium rare. The meat was tender, flavorful, and altogether one of the best steaks I have had in Orlando.

For dessert, you are treated with the creations of Executive Pastry Chef David Ramirez, trained at Johnson and Wales University, winner of American Culinary Foundation competitions and who competed in the Coupe Du Monde de la Patisserie, the World Pastry Cup, in Lyon, France as captain of Team USA. He and his wife Nicole also operate David Ramirez Chocolates (http://davidramirezchocolates.com/) off of Orange Blossom Trail in South Orlando. Choices range from chocolate flourless cake to “Warm Pioneer Bread Pudding” to “A Land Remembered Key Lime Pie”.

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Keylime, creme brulee, banana pudding, chocolate mousse, NY cheesecake shooters in a horse-shoe

A Land Remembered is truly a hidden gem here in Orlando and is a classic “Florida” steakhouse with not only great service but also great, delicious flavors. It’s a great special occasion type of place for dinner, whether you are visiting Rosen Shingle Creek as part of a convention or golf outting, or out for a special night. Prices are pretty high as they are in the tourist district, but you can get a good deal by visiting Restaurant.com and getting one of their discounts there for A Land Remembered.

Valet parking is complimentary when dining at A Land Remembered. The restaurant offers a private dining room (up to 24 people) and relaxing lounge. Seating capacity: 110.

 

 

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Florida Alligator-shaped Butter! how cute and tasty.

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“Gator Creek Stew” – probably the least memorable dish on the menu, I think I would’ve liked more gator or sausage in it.

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Ahi Tuna
Served Rare, Lemon Myrtle Crust
Nappa & Swamp Cabbage Slaw
Chili Pepper Citrus Vinaigrette

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Boca Grande Crab Cake
Scallion Aioli & Red Chili Pepper Glaze

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A shot of the menu prices

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Bone-In Ribeye Steak, 20 oz of delicious, tender, slightly charred steak

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Slow Roasted Prime Rib
Fresh Horseradish & Au Jus
12 oz

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Baked Sweet Potato with Honey Butter, almost like a dessert side

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Chocolate Mousse Cake
12 oz. Portion of Chocolate Mousse Cake
Layered with Pecan Nougatine
Flourless Chocolate Cake and a
Milk Chocolate Cream Filling,
Topped with Raspberry Ganache & Fresh Fruit

A Land Remembered on Urbanspoon

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The Boheme restaurant inside the Grand Bohemian Hotel is celebrating Valentine’s Day with a special menu available a la carte February 10-13 and per person at $79 on February 14th.

I had a chance to preview items on the menu and must give the compliments to Chef Rene and the staff at the Boheme restaurant. There were more hits than misses on their creative new menu. It is funny that they use first, second, third dates to refer to appetizers to entrees respectively.

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Out of the first date (appetizers) dishes, I would recommend the fresh oysters, oriental mussels in a wonderful curry coconut broth, or the wagyu beef carpaccio. The second date recommendations include the aphrodite salad and the roasted pear salad, both very fresh and delightful. I would forgo the love poisson elixir, made with absinthe, as the anise in the liquor appears to overpower the dish. Out of the third date (entrees) try the flaky, delicious chilean sea bass or the perfectly cooked new zealand rack of lamb, but skip the filet mignon as the almond and brie crust did the luxurious tender cut a disservice.

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The Valentine’s Day menu for The Boheme is provided below.

À la carte from February 10th – February 13th

$79 per person only on February 14th

-First Date-

OYSTERS AND CHAMPAGNE 14

Freshly shucked oysters with a tasting of champagne

VENUS CRAB CAKES 15

arugula, basil oil, rémoulade, grilled lemon

ORIENTAL MUSSELS 12

Curry coconut broth, cilantro and kaffir lime leaves

SMOKED DEVILED EGGS 10

Smoked salmon, jalapeño, mustard, cumin and cilantro mayo

TEMPTING SHRIMP TEMPURA ROLL 13

avocado, fruit salsa, sriracha, honey and ginger aioli

WAGYU BEEF CARPACCIO 14

arugula, crispy capers, mustard aioli, shaved parmesan and crostini

GIANT ASPARAGUS SPEARS 15

Prosciutto ham, pecorino and spicy hollandaise


-Second Date-


APHRODITE SALAD 8

Organic mix greens with almonds, feta, grape tomatoes and almond extract vinagrette

ROASTED PEAR SALAD 9

Half roasted pear, candied walnuts, goat cheese and berry orange vinagrette

LOBSTER BISQUE 10

Remy martin, cilantro and cumin

LOVE POSSION ELESIR 8

Clear tomato broth soup with provence liquor made from botanicals and shaved fennel


-Third Date-

COFFEE RUBBED BONE-IN RIBEYE 38

Mushroom and truffle butter and sour cream chive mash

PAN-SEARED CHILEAN SEA BASS 36

Beet reduction and sweet yam and Yukon mash

KISS ME TENDER FILET MIGNON 34

Brie blue cheese crusted, almond, carrot and potato mash, zinfandel reduction demi

SEAFOOD STRUDLE 28

shrimp, scallops and salmon baked in philo served with lobster sauce

NEW ZEALAND RACK OF LAMB 42

Goat cheese crusted, asparagus risotto, port wine reduction

OPEN FACE RAVIOLI 22

Mushrooms and vegetable lasagna with ricotta and tomato béchamel


-Dessert for Two-


TOBLERONE CHOCOLATE FONDUET 18

Melted swiss chocolate accompanied with biscotti, cookies and fruits

STRAWBERRY DIP & ROLL 24

Fresh strawberries served with melted chocolate, white and brown sugar

CARAMELIZED BANANAS 16

Bananas with brandy, orange and lemon juice sauce and vanilla bean ice cream

PASSIONATE PUFFS 14

Cream puffs filled with white, dark and milk chocolate mouse

About the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando – Orlando, FL

Celebrated as an experience in art and music, the AAA Four Diamond Grand Bohemian Hotel, a signature Kessler Collection property, takes center stage as downtown Orlando’s landmark luxury hotel. From the moment of arrival, a dazzling blend of art, music and memorable hospitality greats guests with a fanciful flavor. Italian mosaic tiled, barrel-vaulted ceilings and harlequin inspired sculptures invite guests into an oasis of sheer beauty, housing an unprecedented collection of more than 150 rare works of art. Located moments away from downtown’s cultural gems as well as Orlando’s magical theme parks, Grand Bohemian Hotel fosters a setting that celebrates creativity and inspires the soul.

For more information or to make a reservation at Grand Bohemian Hotel
Orlando, please visit grandbohemianhotel.com or call 407.313.9000.

About The Boheme Restaurant

Guests enjoy luxurious fare in a casual setting at the AAA Four-Diamond Boheme Restaurant. The delectable cuisines, including favorites and new menu items, range from the Kessler signature calamari, cognac lobster bisque and cashew crusted salmon to mascarpone cream cheese cake and Florida mixed berries in French vanilla sauce. Fine wines from the restaurant’s extensive wine cellar, including Kessler signature vintages created exclusively by Napa Valley winemakers, provide offerings from all over the world to pair with a memorable meal. The Boheme also introduced the Kessler Chophouse Menu, featuring the highest quality premium Black Angus select cuts.

The Boheme – 325 South Orange Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801, Phone: 407-313-9000 – www.grandbohemianhotel.com

 

Photos from The Boheme

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Wagyu Beef Carpaccio

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Fresh oysters – Bluepoint oyster with a vinaigrette, pickled cucumbers and jalapenos

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Crab cakes

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Oriental mussels

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Asparagus spears with prosciutto ham

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Roasted pear salad

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Aphrodite salad

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Chilean sea bass

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New Zealand rack of Lamb, goat cheese crusted, asparagus risotto, port wine reduction

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Filet mignon

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White, dark, milk chocolate puff pastries

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 Toblerone Chocolate Fondue

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Do you ever want to get away from town for a while and take a short vacation away from home? It’s nice to have the beautiful beaches of the east and west coasts of Florida just an hour or so away from us here in Orlando (though we often forget). I grew up in West Palm Beach my whole life, with the beach only a few minutes drive away but it wasn’t until after moving away to Orlando for college did I understand how much I took the beaches for granted.

I was recently invited to visit The Shorts Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach, Florida (a winner of Orlando Sentinel’s Best Bets Awards for Best Hotel) to try out the menu at their on-site restaurant Azure as well as take in the ocean views at their hotel. Home to the Daytona 500 and the Daytona International Speedway, Bike Week, and Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach is only about an hour away after zipping along I-4 and getting off at I-95. The beaches in Daytona are famed for their wide stretches of smooth, compacted sand, attracting automobile and motorcycle races beginning in 1902 and eventually leading to the founding of NASCAR.

The Shores was originally built as the Hilton hotel in 1971. In 2004 when the hurricanes came and took down pretty much most of Central Florida, the Hilton building suffered as well. Soon the Hilton hotel moved down the street to another location and The Shores was founded at the location after a total renovation.

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Inside The Shores Resort and Spa

With the distinction of being the only AAA Four-Diamond luxury beachfront hotel in Daytona Beach, The Shores Resort and Spa definitely brings great service and luxury to every aspect of its operations, including their restaurant Azure tucked inconspicuously on the first floor near the back of the building with extra seating on the Atlantic beach front.

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Inside Azure

At dinner at the Azure, our waiter Todd was knowledgable, attentive, courteous and genuine, pretty much everything you could hope for in a waiter. He gave us several recommendations which all were spot on this night. We began with the Sweet Corn and Crab Chowder, made with blue crab, sweet potato crisps, slices of tortillas, and some of the crispiest, sweet corn in a bowl. The Steamed Middle Neck Clams dish came in a sweet, rich pinot grio white wine and butter sauce, topped with fresh tarragon, and fresh tomato and provided a wonderful sauce to dip the house bread into.

For a salad, I chose the Fried Green Tomato & Feta Cheese salad made with breaded, buttermilk marinated fried green tomatoes, feta cheese, organic field greens, olives, cracked pepper and topped with a bourbon molasses vinaigrette. The fried green tomatoes were tart and delicious. My partner chose the Baby Arugula & Sliced Crisp Pear salad with sweet pecans and a white balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

For the main course, Todd recommended to me the Caribbean Grilled Cobia, a white fish served with coconut rice, lemon garlic spinach, and a carrot citrus butter sauce. The dish was fantastic and immediately brought me back to the time I spent on the island of St Maarten in the Caribbean with its very fresh fish. The cobia was light and flavorful and the coconut rice, butter sauce, and lemon garlic spinach all melded beautifully together in my palate.

My partner chose the Atlantic Seafood Etouffee a cajun dish made with shrimp, scallops, fresh catch, and crawfish tail with steamed jasmine rice. Having visited New Orleans on multiple occasions and having etouffee as one of my favorite dishes from that region, I tend to have a prejudice when I meet other etouffee creations, judging it against the freshness and rich flavors of the roux in the etouffees found in the Big Easy. The Atlantic Seafood Etouffee, I found, was a spot on Cajun creation, filled with all the tastes and authentic textures and ingredients I had remembered before, and yet also adding its own touch on the classic with the fresh seafood from the Atlantic.

For dessert, we chose the always popular Brownie Mudslide, a delicious warm chocolate brownie, with kahlúa and bailey’s ice cream, topped with toasted pecans and a caramel sauce.

After dinner, you can take a stroll down to one of the many oceanside firepits set up and enjoy the sweet simple pleasure of seaside S’mores, made with your traditional graham crackers, toasty marshmallows and warm gooey chocolate. The s’mores, the fire pit, and the crashing waves near by all made for a very beautiful night.

After some rest in the hotel, when the sunrises, you can really see why the Shores is a popular place for weddings and meeting events. The view of the Atlantic is just breathtaking.

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Sunrise at Daytona Beach from The Shores

In the morning, the Azure restaurant serves up breakfast daily. I ordered the Stone Roasted Eggs made with two eggs cooked on a stone pan (supposedly it gives it some added grill flavor), roasted tomatoes, garlic spinach,parmesan cheese, and toast. My partner ordered the Crab Cake Benedict, a dish made with two poached eggs on blue crab cakes with hollandaise sauce and hash browns.

All in all, it really surprised me that Azure was so unknown before, tucked away like any good hidden secret, on the beautiful shores of the Atlantic beach and away from visitors’ knowledge. I hope more people find out about this place soon here at Azure, inside The Shores Resort and Spa, as it has some of the best dishes you can find here in Central Florida and I would definitely go back just to try these dishes again alone, not to mention the fantastic seaside views and amenities at The Shores. Check it out soon !

Azure on Urbanspoon

For more information, visit The Shores Resort and Spa –  2637 South Atlantic Avenue Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118 (Tel) 386.767.7350 – http://www.shoresresort.com/



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Sweet Corn and Crab Chowder


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Steamed Middle Neck Clams in pinot grio white wine and butter sauce


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Baby Arugula and Sliced Crisp Pear salad


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Fried Green Tomato and Feta Cheese salad


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Caribbean Grilled Cobia with coconut rice and lemon garlic spinach


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Atlantic Seafood Etouffee




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Brownie Mudslide




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The firepits for S’mores at The Shores




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Banquet room at The Shores






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Stone Roasted Eggs with spinach and roasted tomatoes






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Crab Cake Benedict


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A mysterious e-mail arrives in my inbox one autumn day. An invitation to visit the illustrious Omni Resort Hotel at Championsgate, just outside of Orlando a few exits south of Disney World on Interstate-4. The reason? To try out some new drink menu items on their bar menu and be whisked away for a mini-staycation at the hotel. Hmm…I thought…this sounds enticing…

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On that pre-arranged date, ten strangers assembled on the steps of the lobby of the Omni Hotel, greeted by Ms. Jackie of the Zimmerman Agency, the ever smiling Mrs. Kelly Burnett (Follow her official Omni Resorts twitter here @kdburnett), Director of Leisure Sales for the Omni Orlando resort, and Mr. Mel, head of food and beverage at the hotel. Some of the guests this evening come from Orlando Style magazine, Orange Appeal, and local blogs like ourselves and our friends at MEGAYUMMO.

All of it seemed too much like out of a summer mystery novel to me: strangers meeting at a hotel, invited by a unknown mysterious host, having a delightful time, a lovely overnight stay…only to awaken in the morning to find out one of the guests has mysteriously disappeared overnight and the whole hotel is locked down while an old detective with a checkered past is brought in to figure out the crime and solve the mystery.

Luckily for us, things did not require a detective in the morning. Things actually went quite smoothly and relaxing.

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A beautiful view of the family pool and the golf course at Omni Resort at Championsgate

First off, the drinks. Omni Hotel has a nice little bar area on the left of the lobby near Zen restaurant where a piano player is set up for light enjoyable piano music. Here, the bartenders have assembled a presentation area where they whip out the latest “organic” and “local” creations from Omni resorts including the Sweet Honey Dew Foam made of Monin pure can syrup, Highland pepper, Berry ron-dezvous, Southern Basil Smash, and New Age Juleps. My favorite of the evening was the Berry Ron-dezvous, a very sweet yet also very potent mixed drink that packs a punch right after the unassuming sweetness settles in.

Below are the recipes for the new drinks at Omni Resort at Championsgate.

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Sweet Honeydew Foam
(topping for the New Age Julep Recipe)
Ingredients:
8oz Orange Juice
4oz Monin Pure Cane Syrup
2oz Organic Pasteurized Egg Whites
Method: 
1. Pour ingredients directly into iSi Gourmet Whip Plus Canister* 2. Place the lid on and screw tightly 3. Screw on the CO2 cartridge, you should hear a hissing noise during this
step 4. Shake the canister well 5. Completely invert the canister upside down 6. Last, pour the foam at the side of the glass and top your cocktail
*an iSi canister is also known as a whipping cream bottle/canister
Highland Pepper
Glass: Highball Method: Muddle/Shake & Fine Strain
Ingredients: 1 each Jalapeno Slice
Muddle above ingredients
1each Dash of Celery Bitters
1.5 oz Patrón Silver
.75 oz Fresh Squeezed Florida Grapefruit Juice
.5 oz Fresh Lime Juice
.75 oz Monin Agave Nectar
Shake above ingredients with ice
Garnish: Fine Strain over Ice
Jalapeno Slice Grapefruit Wheel
Southern Basil Smash
Glass: Rocks Method: Muddle/Shake & Fine Strain
Ingredients:
2 each Fresh Strawberries (hulled & sliced)
3 each Basil Leaves
Muddle above ingredients
1.5 oz Woodford Reserve
.5 oz Cointreau
.5 oz Dry Sack Sherry
.5 oz Monin Pure Cane Syrup
.75 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Garnish: Fine strain over ice
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Berry Ron-dezvous
Glass: Martini Method: Shake with ice & fine strain
Ingredients: 
2 each Fresh Blackberries
4 each Fresh Raspberries
Muddle above ingredients
1.5 oz Bacardi Superior
.5 oz Grand Marnier
.5 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
.5 oz Monin Pure Cane Syrup
Garnish: Fresh Blackberries
Glass: Rocks Method: Muddle/Shake
New Age Juleps
Ingredients: 8 each Mint Leaves
Muddle above ingredients
1.5 oz Absolut Vodka
.75 oz Plymouth Gin
.75 oz Monin Honey Sweetener
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Shake above ingredients with ice Strain without ice
Garnish: Top with Mint Sprig
Sweet Orange Foam

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After the presentation, we were treated to a very amazing dinner at David’s Club, a kind of relaxed pub type restaurant inside Omni hotel, best known for their steaks. Right next door is Zen, a fusion Chinese pan-Asian restaurant, whose dishes were also presented that evening. My favorites included the Chinese style barbeque spare ribs, the Zen roll, and the Florida sushi roll from Zen as well as the short rib ossobucco from David’s Club. All in all, the food was magnificent and the company was great.
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Zen Restaurant  – Pan Asian cuisine


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Seafood Bird nest

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The Chinese style bbq spareribs – must try!

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Lobster Tempura

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Amazing, fresh sushi rolls


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Short rib ossobucco

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The Lamb chops 

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Swordfish steak


In the morning, we ventured out into the Trevi restaurant, traditionally a Italian restaurant, but also a breakfast spot in the morning where they have a full blown breakfast buffet as well as select specialty menu items such as the french toast, eggs benedict, etc.

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Trevi’s 

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French toast

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Bacon, bacon, bacooonnn

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Salami cuts and charcuterie


Omni Resort at Championsgate is pretty much all you could ask for in a staycation trip: great food, a nice little lazy river to lounge in, a huge pool for the family, and a giant golf course, all within 30-45 minute drive from downtown Orlando. You definitely feel at peace at this place and away from all the noise and traffic of the City Beautiful. Check it out some time if you can!

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Luxury and relaxation.
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Lazy river at the Omni
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For more information visit:
Omni Orlando Resort at Championsgate
1500 Masters Blvd
ChampionsGate, Florida 33896
Phone: (407) 390-6664, Fax: (407) 390-6600
http://www.omnihotels.com/findahotel/orlandochampionsgate.aspx
Special thanks to the good people at Omni Resorts, Kelly and Mel, and Jackie of the Zimmerman Agency for setting up this beautiful event! And to the great staff at Omni resorts for doing such a fine job in hospitality and guest services.

Zen Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Trevi's on Urbanspoon

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I recently took my significant other out for her birthday and treated her to a nice day out at the spa at the Ritz Carlton Orlando Grand Lakes. The Ritz Carlton Hotel is located off of John Young Parkway just south of SR 528. This spa actually placed in the top ten best resort spas as part of a recent Conde Naste Traveller magazine survey. Inside the Ritz Carlton just downstairs from the spa is the Vitale Spa Cafe, where one can enjoy some very delicious offerings while sipping tea with a beautiful view of the pool side.

The Vitale Spa Cafe offers some very healthy dishes ranging from salads to wraps and sandwiches, and also surprisingly, bento boxes. If you choose the bento box, you can have your pick of one protein from the list:

Citrus Marinated Grilled Chicken
Grilled Shrimp
Teriyaki Glazed Salmon
Grilled Snapper
Grilled Marinated Tofu
Filet Mignon Brochette
and also a Choice of 3 Sides:
Soy Glazed Mushrooms
Indian 3 Bean Salad
Soba Noodles
Mixed Greens
Tomato & Avocado
Fresh Fruit
Citrus & Hearts of Palm
Farro Salad

My partner chose the bento box with the Grilled Snapper with Fresh fruit, soy glazed mushrooms and mixed greens. The snapper was grilled to perfection, tasty and not too dry or too flaky. It reminded me of the way my dad used to grill fish in the backyard on summer afternoons when I was a child.

I chose to get the Seared Ahi Tuna with Heirloom Tomato and Baby Arugula, Soba Noodles, with Wasabi-Sherry Vinaigrette. The tuna was seared just right and was extremely fresh and red, just the way I like it. The tomato, arugula, and soba noodles all went well together with the wasabi sherry vinaigrette.

What I enjoyed most about my experience at Vitale Spa Cafe was its emphasis on fresh, healthy ingredients while also making the full flavors of the ingredients jump out in their dishes. The ingredients all went very well together and I was very pleased to find this unexpected gem of a cafe inside the Ritz Carlton hotel.

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A look inside the Vitale Spa Cafe
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Bento Box with Grilled Salmon and soy glazed mushrooms, fresh fruit, mixed greens.
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The Seared Ahi Tuna with Heirloom Tomato, and baby arugula, soba noodles, with a Wasabi Sherry Vinaigrette 
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Bon Apetit

The Vitale Spa Cafe is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. from Sunday – Thursday and 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. on Friday & Saturday. Located inside of the Ritz Carlton Hotel at Orlando Grande Lakes at 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando, Florida 32837 USA.

Vitale Spa Cafe on Urbanspoon

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Harrington House Beachfront Bed & Breakfast Inn

This past weekend, I decided to surprise my partner with a little weekend romantic getaway to Anna Maria Island located just south of St Petersburg and north of Bradenton facing the Gulf of Mexico. We had always wanted to go to a bed and breakfast and I thought this would be the perfect time to try it out. I had heard of this place first from one of my co-workers who had recently been a guest at the place and had a great time. I decided to take up her recommendation and visit Harrington House Beachfront Bed and Breakfast and enjoy the warm Florida sun by the beachside.

It took about 2.5 hours to get to the island after getting a little lost (thanks googlemaps!), but when we arrived we could immediately feel the island’s laid-back relaxed small-town spirit that is quintessential of “Old Florida”. The island had narrow, curvy streets scattered with quaint shops and rustic seaside cottages and restaurants. One could really get a sense of getting away from it all and becoming used to living here on the beach side with its southern comforts and casual tranquility.

Checking into the inn, I discover that there are free kayaks and bicycles that we could use to explore the island, I definitely wanted to try the kayaking out later on. The staff were welcoming and warm, suggesting places to eat and things to do during our stay. The owners are a couple who treat the place like home living out their motto “come as a guest, leave as a friend”

The main living room had large comfy couches, book shelves of magazines and menus of places to eat at, the walls adorned with clippings of articles featuring the inn and a photo of the owners on their wedding day.

There is an intimate charm about the Harrington House Bed and Breakfast, the gas-lit fireplaces in the room, huge king sized bed, double-headed showers, a small flashlight for night time excursions onto the beach for a moonlit stroll, are all fine details that they thought about for our stay here.The view at our room was marvelous, the grand and expansive Gulf of Mexico literally footsteps away. The white powdery sands and beautiful ocean view took my breath away. The room is also equipped with TV and cable and thankfully I was able to watch the Magic defeat the Cavs later that evening to advance to the NBA finals against the Lakers. GO MAGIC!

The weather was perfect this past weekend, sunny and warm with a touch of clouds, a drastic change from the past week of downpours. We laid out on the beach to watch a spectaular sun set, kissing the horizon as it descended and tucking itself to sleep beneath the ocean’s waves.

We return to the main house for breakfast the next morning– beautifully presented and featuring a variety of fresh fruit and juices, homemade toast made from a sweet oatmeal, eggs Benedict with country sausage and gravy, slices of muffin, plus fresh coffee and tea. It was a heartfelt breakfast from a heartwarming inn.

I would love to live here forever, a sleepy village where time had forgot, living in a time when life was much simpler.

Voted Best Bed and Breakfast on Anna Maria Island from bedandbreakfast.com for 2008-2009

TASTY CHOMPS!! RATING!!
4.5 out of 5 TASTY ROMANTIC CHOMPS!!!!!

Harrington House Beachfront Bed and Breakfast
5626 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, Anna Maria Island, FL 34217-1666
Phone (888) 828-5566 • (941) 778-5444
http://www.harringtonhouse.com/

Harrington House Beachfront Bed & Breakfast Inn on Urbanspoon

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